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ENGLISH MEN OF LELLE^FS 


HUME 


BY 


PROFESSOR HUXLE 



MACMILLAN AND CO., LIMITED 
ST. MARTIN'S STREET, LONDON 
J909 










-kM. 


CONTENTS. 


PJMT L— HUME’S LIFE. 


CHAPTBE I. 

RAlir-Y UlfK : I.ITUIIAUY AND TOUTIOAL WRITINGS . 


CHAPTBE IL 

I-ATBIl YKAttS ; THU -HISTORY OF ENQLAND 


FART Tl— HUME’S PHILOSOPHY. 


CHAPTER I. 

TUB OBJECT AND 8COPU OF I’lIIMSOPHY 


CHAPTER n. 


THE CONTENTS OF THE MIND 


CHAPTBE ni. 


THE OMCIN OF THU IMPEERHIONS 


74 


Vi CONTENTS. . 

CHAPTEK IV. 

PAOK 

THE CLASSIEICATION AND THE NOMENCLATURE OP MENTAL 

OPEBATIONS 80 

CHAPTEK V. 

THE MENTAL PHENOMENA OF ANIMALS . , . , . 108 

CHAPTSB VI. 

LANGUAGE— PROPOSITIONS CONCERNING NECESSARY TRUTHS 114 

CHAPTER VIL 

THE ORDER OF NATURE *. MIRACLES . . . . « / > ,129 

CHAPTER 'Vin. 

THEISM EVOLUTION OF THEOLOGY .... . . , . 140 

^ CHAPTER IX. 

THE SOUL: THE DOOTRINB OF IMMORTALITY, . . . .165 

CHAPTER X. 

volition: LIBERTY AND NECESSITY . , ... . 183 

CHAPTER XI. 

THE PRINCIPLES OF MORALS . . . . . , ... . 197 





HUME. 

MIIT I. 

LIFE, 

OHAPTER I. 

KAELV him I LJU’IiJEAttY AND POLITICAL WBITINGS. 


Dayip HuMia wftB bopn in Edinburgh on the 26th of 
April (O.S.), 1711. Hia parentB were then residing in 
tlie parish of the Tron church, apparently on a visit 
to the Scottish capital, as the small estate which his 
father Joseph Hume, or Home, inherited, lay in Berwick- 
shire, on the banks of the Whitadder or Whitewater, a 
few miles from the border, and within sight of English 
ground. The paternal mansion was little more than a very 
modest farmhouse,^ and the property derived its name 


» A plotiim of the hoiiflo, taken from Drummond^s History of 
MhU British Fmnilws, is to lie seen in Chambers’s Booh of Bays 
(April 20th) } and if, as Drummond says, ** It is a favourable 
speeimen of tin bont Bootoh lairds* houses,” all that can he said is 
that the worst Scotoh lairds must liave been poorly lodged indeed. 






2 


HUME; 


[CHAP. 


of Ninewells from a considerable spring, wHcb breaks 
out on the slope in front of the house, and falls into the 
Whitadder. 

Both mother and father came of good Scottish 
families — the paternal line running back to Lord 
Home of Douglas, who went over to France with the 
Douglas during the French wars of Henry V. and VI. 
and was killed at the battle of Verneml. Joseph 
Hume died when David was an infant, leaving him- 
self and two elder children, a brother and a sister, to 
the care of their mother, who is described by David 
Hume in My Ovm Life as a woman of singular 
merit, who though young and handsome devoted herself 
entirely to the rearing and education of her children.’ ' 
Mr. Burton says : ^^Her portrait, which I have seen, 
represents a thin but pleasing countenance, expres- 
sive of great intellectual acuteness ; ’’ and Hume 
told Dr. Black that she had precisely the same 
constitution with himself” and died of the disorder 
which proved fatal to him, it is probable that the quali- 
ties inherited from his mother had much to do with the 
future philosopher’s eminence. It is curious, however, 
that her estimate of her son in her only recorded, and 
perhaps slightly apocryphal utterance, is of a somewhat 
unexpected character. ^VOur Davie’s a fine good- 
natured crater, but uncommon wake-minded. ” The fiirst 
part of the judgment was indeed verified by Davie’s ” 
whole life ; but one might seek in vain for signs of what 
is commonly understood as '"weakness of mind” in a 
man who not only showed himself to be an intellectual 
athlete, but who had an eminent share of practical 
wisdom and tenacity of purpose. One would like to 
know, however, when it was that Mi's. Hume committed 


I,] CHILDHOOD AHD EDUCATION 8 

V hei’self to tliis not too flattering judgment of her younger 

' son. For as Plume reached the mature age of four and 

' thirty, before he obtained any employment of sufficient 

I importance to conveii5 the meagre pittance of a middling 

I laird's younger brother into a decent maintenance, it is 

I not improbable that a shrewd Scots wife may have, 

$ thought" his devotion to philosophy and poverty to 

- be due to mere infiimity of purpose. But she lived 

till 1749j long enough to see more than the dawn of 
f her son's litei^ary fame and ofllcial importance, and 

^ probably changed her mind about * ^ Davie V* force of 

, character, 

['; David Hume appears to have o wed little to schools 

y or universities. There is some evidence that he entered 
the Greek class in the University of Edinburgh in 
1723 — when he was a boy of twelve years of age — but 
it is not known how long his studies were continued, 
and he did not graduate. In 1727, at any rate, he was 
living at Mnewells, and already possessed by that love 
of learning and thirst for literary fame, which, as 
My Own Ljfe tells us, was the ruling passion of his 
life and the chief aoux’Ce of his enjoyments. A letter 
of this date, addressed to his friend Michael Eamsay, is 
ceitainly a most singular px'oduction for a boy of six- 
teen. After sundry quotations from Virgil the letter 
proceeds ; — 

‘‘The perfectly wise man that outbraves fortune, is much 
greater than the husbandman who slips by her; and, indeed, 
this pastoral and Saturnian happiness X have in a great mea- 
sure come at just now, I live like a king, pretty much 
by myself, neither full of action nor perturbation— wcZto 
soTmos, This state, however, I can foresee is not to be 
relied on. Ky peace of mind is not sufficiently confirmed 

B 2 



4 


HUME, 


fCHAP, 


by pbilosopliy to withstand the blows of fortune. This great- 
ness and elevation of soul is to be found only in study and 
contemplation. This alone can teach us to look down on 
human accidents. You must allow [mej to talk thus like a 
philosopher: .’tis a subject I think much oiij and could talk 
all day long of. 

If David talked in this strain to his mother her 
tongue probably gave utterance to Bless the bairn I ' * 
and, in her private soul, the epithet wake -minded '' 
may then have recorded itself. But, though few lonely, 
thoughtful, studious boys of sixteen give vent to their 
thoughts in such stately periods, it is probable that the 
brooding over an ideal is commoner at this age, than 
fathers and mothers, busy with the cares of practical 
life, ure apt to imagine. 

About a year later, Hume’s family tried to launch him 
into the profession of the law; but, as he tells us, 
‘^while they fancied I was poring upon Yoet and 
Tinnius, Cicero and Virgil were the authors which I 
was secretly devouring,’’ and the attempt seems to 
have come to an abrupt termination. IsTevertheless, as 
a very competent authority ^ wisely remarks :• — 

/^Thexe appear to have been in Hume all the elements of 
which a good lawyer is made : clearness of judgment, pQwer 
of rapidly acquiring knowledge, untiring industry , and dialectic 
skill; and if his mind had not been preoccupied, he might 
have fallen into the gulf in which many of the world’n great- 
est geniuses lie buried— professional eminence ; and might 
have left behind him a reputation limited to the traditional 


^ Mr. Johu Hill Burton, in his valuable Life of Hwme, on which, 
1 need h^dly say, I have drawn freely for the materials of the 
present biographical sketch. 




FALSE STAKTS. 


5 


recollectioiLS of tho Parliament hoiifie, or afisociated with im- 
portant decisjoiifi. He was throng:h life an able, clear-headed 
man of business, and I have soon several legal documents, 
written in his own hand and evidently drawn by himself. 
They stand the test of general professional observation; and 
their writer, by preparing documents of facts of such a character 
on his own responsibiHty, showed that he had considerable con- 
fidence in his ability to adhere to the forms adequate for tho 
occasion. He talked of it as ‘an ancient prejudice industri- 
ously propagated by the dunces in all countries, that a mm 
of genius is unfit for Imsiness^^ and he showed, in his general 
conduct through life, that he did not choose to come volun- 
tarily under this proscription.’^ 

Six years longer Hume remained at Ninewella before 
he made another attempt to embark in a pmotical 
career — this time commerce — and with a like result. 
For a few months’ trial proved that kind of life, also, to 
bo hopelessly against the grain. 

It was while in London, on his way to Bristol, where 
he pi’oposed to commence his mercantile life, that 
Hume addressed to some eminent London physician (pro- 
bably, as Mr. Burton suggests, Dr. George Oheyne) a 
remarkable letter. Whether it was ever sent seems doubt- 
ful ; but it shows that philosophers as well as poets have 
their Werterian crises, and it presents an interesting 
parallel to John Stuart Mill’s recoi'd of the eoxu’esponding 
period of his youth. The letter is too long to be given 
in full, but a few quotations may suffice to indicate its 
importance to those who desire to comprehend the 
man. 

‘^Yoii must kiiow then that from my earliest infancy I 
found always a strong inclination to books and letters, As 
our college education in Scotland, extending little further 





6 HUME, [OIIAP. 

tlian tlie laiigTiages, ends commonly when we are about 
lourteen or fifteen years of agd, I was after that left to my 
own choice in my reading, and found it incline me almost 
eq^uaUy to books of reasoning and philosophy, and to poetry 
and the polite authors. Every one who is acquainted either 
with the philosophers or critics, knows that there is nothing 
/et established in either of these two sciences, and that they 
contain little more than endless disputes, even in the most 
fimdamental articles. Upon examination of these, I found a 
certain boldness of temper growing on me, which was not 
inclined to submit to any authority in these subjects, hut led 
me to seek out some new medium, by which truth might be 
established. After much study and reflection on this, at last, 
when i was about eighteen years of age, there seemed to be 
opened np to me a new scene of thought, which transported 
me beyond meaaare, and made me, with an ardour natural to 
young men, throw up every other pleasure or business to 
apply entirely to it. The law, which was the business 1 
designed to follow, appeared nauseous to me, and I could 
think of no other way of pushing my fortune in the world, 
hut that of a scholar and philosopher. I was infinitely happy in 
this course of life for some months ; till at last, about the begin- 
ning of September, 1729, all my ardour seemed in a moment 
to be extinguished, and I could no longer raise my mind to 
that pitch, which formerly gave pae such excessive pleasure. 

This ^‘decline of soul” Hume attributes, in part, to 
: hk b^ng smitten with the beautiful representation of 

; , „ vij^e in the works of Cicero, Seneca, and Plutarch, and 
■ thereby led to discipline his temper and his will 

atog with his reason and understanding. 

"1 was continually fortifying myself with reflections 
: , a^nst death, and poverty, and shame, and pain, and all the 
. ^ other calamities of life/ V 


And he adds very characteristically 






7 



% 


I 

I 

'k 

k 

I 

I, 

i 


I.] : TRIES MERCAISTTILE LIFE. 


♦ 


These no doubt are exceeding useful when joined with an 
active lifcj because the occasion being presented along with 
the reflection, works it into the soul, and makes it take a deep 
impression: but, in solitude, they serve to little other pur- 
pose than to waste the spirits, the force of the mind meeting 
no resistance, but wasting itseK in the air, like our arm when 
it misses its aim.” " . 


Along with all this mental perturbation, symptoms of 
scurvy, a disease now almost unknown among lands- 
men, hut which, in the days of winter salt meat, before 
root crops flourished in the Lothians, greatly plagued 
our forefathers, made their appearance. And, indeed, 
it may be suspected that physical conditions were, 
at first, at the bottom of the whole business j for, in 
1731, a ravenous appetite set in and, in six weeks from 
being tall, lean, and raw-boned, Hume says he became 
sturdy and robust, with a ruddy complexion and a 
cheerful countenance — eating, sleeping, and feeling 
well, except that the capacity for intense mental 
application seemed to be gone. He, therefore, deter- 
mined to seek out a more active life; and, though he 
could not and would not quib his pretensions to learn- 
ing, but with his last breath,'’ he resolved to lay them 
aside for some time, in order the more effectually to 
resume them.’’ 

The careers open to a poor Scottish gentleman in 
those days were very few; and, as Hume's option lay 
between a travelling tutorship and a stool in a mer- 
chant’s office, he chose the latter. 


And having got recommendation to a considerable trader 
in Bristol, I am just now hastening thither, with a resolution 
to forget myself, and everything that is past, to engagemy- 
sel^ as far as is possible, in that course of life, and to toss, 




HUME. 



OtmLife, 


[chap* 


about tbe world from one pole to the other, till I leave this 
distemper behind me.” ^ 

But it was all of no use — Kature would have hei’ way 
—and in the middle of 1736, David Hume, aged twenty- 
three, without a profession or any assured means of 
earning a guinea; and having douJbtless, by his apparent 
vacillation, but real tenacity of purpose, once more 
earned the title of wake-minded ” at home ; betook 
himself to a foreign country. 


went over to France, with a view of prosecuting my 
studies in a country retreat ; and there I laid that plan of life 
which I have steadily and successfully pursued. I resolved 
to make a very rigid frugality supply my deficiency of 
r, fortune, to maintain unimpaired my independency, and to 
r- regard every object as contemptible except the improvement 

of my talents in literature.” 2 


, Hume passed through Paris on his way to Rheims, 
where he resided for some time; though the greater 
; part of his three years! stay was spent at La Pl^che, 
in frequent intercourse with the Jesuits of the famous 
‘ college in which Descartes was educated. Here he 
composed his first work, the Treatise of Ewman 
iVo^e ; ^ though it would appear from the following 
i passage in the letter to Cheyne, that he had been ac- 
, ^ cumulating materials to that end for some years before 
he Jeft Scotland. 


e canuot^but be reminded of jmimg Descartes’ renunciation 




T.] . BESIDEKCE m FEAKCB; 0 

found that the moral philosophy transmitted to us 
by antiquity laboured under the same inconvenience^ that 
has been found in their natural philosophy, of being 
entirely hypothetical, and depending more upon invention 
than experience: every one consulted his fancy in erect- 
ing schemes of virtue and happiness, without regarding 
htiman nature, upon which every moral conclusion must 
depend.*^ 


This is the key note of the Treatise ; of which ITume 
himself says apologetically, in one of his letters, that it 
was planned before he was twenty-one and composed 
before he had reached the age of twenty-five. ^ 

Under these circumstances, it is probably the most 
remarkable philosophical work, both intrinsically and 
in its eUeots upon the course of thought, that has ever 
been written. Bex'keley, indeed, published the Ussay 
Towards a N'eio Theory of Vision^ the Treatise Gon- 
eemwig the Prindples of Human Knowledge^ and the 
Three Dialogues^ between the ages of twenty-four and 
twenty-eight ; and thus comes vary near to Htimo, both 
in precocity and in influence ; but his investigations are 
more limited in their scope than those of his Scottish 
contemporary. 

The first and second volumes of the Trcatm, contain* 
ing Book I., the Understanding/^ and Book IT., “Of 
the Passions/^ were published in January, 1739. The 


^ better to (lilbert Elliot of Minto, 1751, “Bo vast an imclw- 
tftkfrig, planned before I was one-and-twenty, and composed before 
twenty-five, must necessarily ha very defective. I have rapanted 
my hfuita a hundrod and a hundred times/* 



10 


HUM. 


[OHA,P. 


publisher gave fifty pounds for the copyright; which 
\s probably more than an unknown writer of twenty- 
seven years of age would get for a similar work, at the 
present time. But, in other respects, its success fell 
far short of Hume's expectations. In a letter dated the 
1st of June, 1739, he writes, — 

'‘lam not much in the humour of such compositions at 
present, having received news from London of the success of 
mj Philosophy, which is but indifEerent, if I may judge by 
the sale of the book, and if I may believe my bookseller.” 

This, however, indicates a very different reception 
from that which. Hume, looking through the inverted 
telescope of old age, ascribes to the Treatise in Mu Own 
Life. 

^“hTever literary attempt was more unfortunate than my 
Tnatmof Human Nature. It fell deadborn from the press 
without reaching snch a distinction as even to excite a 
murmur among the zealots.” 

As a nmtter of fact,. it was fully, and, on the whole, 
respectf^y and appreciatively, reviewed in the Mistoru 
of the Zea/rned for ISTovember, 1739 ^ 
moever the reviewer may have been, he was a man 
of ^TOnt, for he says that the work bears "in- 
contestable marks of a great capacity, of a soaring 

ST: yet thoroughly practised;” 

^^der this, compared with the later prodnotions, in 
the same light as we view the juvenile works of a 

f Burton, vol. i. p. 109, 


ij FORSAKES PHILOSOPHY.. n 

Milton, or the first manner of a Raphael or other 
celebrated painter,” In a letter to Hutcheson, Hume 
merely speaks of this article as somewhat abusive ^ so 
that his vanity, being young and callow, seems to have 
been correspondingly wide-mouthed and hard to satiate. 

It must be confessed that, on this occasion, no 
less than on that of his other publications, Hume 
exhibits no small share of the craving after mere 
notoriety and vulgar success, as distinct from the par- 
donable, if not honourable, ambition for solid and en- 
during fame, which would have harmonised better with 
his philosophy. Indeed, it appears to be by no means 
improbable that this peculiarity of Hume’s moral con- 
stitution was the cause of his gradually forsaking 
philosophical studies, after the publication of the third 
part {On Morals) of the Treatis&i in 1740, and turning 
to those political and historical topics which were 
likelf to yield, and did in fact yield, a much bettex' 
return of that sort of success which his soul loved. 
The Fhilosopliical Essays G omening the Ilurrmi Under- 
standing^ which afterwards became the Inquiry^ is not 
much more than an abridgment and recast, for popular 
use, of parts of the Treatise, x/ith the addition of the 
essays on Miracles and on Necessity. In style, it 
exhibits a great improvement on the Treatise ; but the 
substance, if not detexiorated, is certainly not improved. 
Hume does not really bring his mature powers to boar 
upon his early speculations, in the later work. The 
crude fruits have not been ripened, bixli they have been 
ruthlessly pruned away, along with the branches whioh 
bore them. The result is a pretty shrub enough ^ but 
not the tree of knowledge, with its roots firmly fixed in 
fact, its branches perennially budding forth into new 


12 


HUME. 


[chap, 


truths, which Hume might have reared. Perhaps, 
after all, worthy Mrs. Hume was, in the highest sense' 
right. Davie was “ wake-minded,” not to see that the 
world of philosophy was his to ovei-run and subdue, if 
•he would but persevere in the work he had begun. 
But no— he must needs turn aside for “success”; and 
verily he had his reward;' but not the crown he might 
have won. 

In 1740, Hume seems to have made an acquaintance 
which rapidly ripened into a life-long friendship. 
Adam Smith was, at that time, a boy student of seven- 
teen at the Hniversity of Glasgow; and Hume sends a 
copy of fkB Treatise to “Mr. Smith," apparently on the 
recommendation of the , well-known Hutcheson, Pro- 
fessor of Moral Philosophy in the university. It is a 
remarkable evidence of Adam Smith’s early intellectual 
development, that a youth of Ms age should be thought 
worthy of such a present. "" 

, In 1741 Hume published anonymously, at Edinburgh 
the first volume of Assays Moral and Political, which was 
followed in 1742 by the second volume. 

Th^e pieces are written in an admirable style and 
fho^h arranged without apparent method, a system of 
political phUosophy may be gathered from their con- 
^ Thus ihe thmd That Politics rmy he reduced 

Scmioe, defends that thesis, and dwells on the 
importance of forms of government, 

^ So great is the force of laws and of particular forms of 

as men, that consequences almost 

as any wliich the m«h deduced from 

45.) sciences afford us.” 


1.1 


POLITICAL DOCTlimES. 


13 


Ilume proceeds to exemplify the evils which in- 
evitably flow from universal suffrage, from aristocratic 
privilege, and from elective monarchy, by historical 
examples, and concludes : — 

That an hereditary prince, a nobility without vassals, and 
a people voting by their representatives, form the best 
monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy/’ — (III. 18.) 

If we reflect that the following passage of the 
samQ essay was written nearly a century and a half 
ago, it woirld seem that whatever other changes 
may have taken place, political warfai’e remains in 
statu quo 

Those who either attack or defend- a minister in such a 
government as ours, where the utmost liberty is allowed, always 
carry matters to an extreme, and exaggerate his merit or de- 
merit with regard to the public. His enemies are sure to 
charge him with the greatest enormities, both in domestic and 
foreign management j and there is no meanness or crime, of 
which, in their judgment, he is not capable. Unnecessary 
wars, scandalous treaties, profusion of public treasure, oppres- 
sive taxes, every kind of maladministration is ascribed to 
him. To aggravate the charge, his pernicious conduct, it is 
,said, will extend its baneful influence even to posterity, by 
undermining the best constitution in the world, and disordering 
that wise system of laws, institutions, and customs, by which 
our ancestors, during so many centuries, have been so happily 
governed. He is ixot only a wicked minister in himself, but 
has removed every security provided against wicked ministers 
for the future. 

On the other hand, ‘the partisans of the minister make his 
panegyric rise as high as the accusation against him, and 
celebrate his wise, steady, and moderate conduct in every part 
of his administration. The honour and interest of the nation 


14’ 


HUME. 


[CHAI*, 


supported abroad, public credit maintained at home, perse- 
cution restrained, faction subdued: the merit of all these 
blessings is ascribed solely to the minister. At the same time, 
he crowns all his other merits by a religious care of the best 
government in the world, which he has preserved in all its 
parts, and has transmitted entire, to be the nappiness and 
security of the latest posterity.^^ —(III. 26.) 

Hume sagely remarks that the panegyric and the 
accusation cannot both be true ; and, that what truth 
there may be in either, rather tends to show that our 
much-vaunted constitution does not fulfil its chief object, 
which is to provide a remedy against maladministration. 
And if it does not — 

“ we are rather beholden to any minister who undermines it 
and afEords us the opportunity of erecting a better in its 
place/’— III. 28. 

The fifth Essay discusses the Origin of Govern^ 
ment : — 

Man, bom in a family, is compelled to maintain society 
from necessity, from natural inclination, and from habit. The 
same creature, in his farther progress, is engaged to establish 
political society, in order to administer justice, without which 
^ere can be no peace among them, nor safety, nor mutual 
intercourse. We are therefore to look upon all the vast 
apparatus of our government, as having ultimately no 
other object or purpose but the distribution of justice, or, 
in other words, the support of the twelve judges. Kings 
and parliaments, fleets and armies, oj0Bcers of the court and 
revenue, ambassadors, ministers and privy councillors, are all 
subordinate in the end to this part of administration. Even 
the clergy, as their duty leads them to inculcate morality, 
may justly be thought, so far as regards this world, to have no 
other useful object of their institution.”— (HI. 37.) 

The poHce theory of government has never been stated 


POLITICAL DOCTRINES. 


U 


more tersely : and, if there were only one state in the 
world ; and if we could be certain by intuition, or by 
the aid of revelation, that it is wrong for society, as a 
corporate body, to do anything for the improvement of 
its members and, thereby, indirectly support the twelve 
judges, no objection could be raised to it. 

Unfortunately the existence of rival or inimical 
nations ftumishes kings and parliaments, fleets and 
armies,” with a good deal of occupation beyond the sup- 
port of the twelve judges ; and, though the proposition 
that the State has no business to meddle with anything 
but the administration of justice, seems sometimes to be 
regarded as an axioua, it can hardly be said to be in- 
tuitively certain, inasmuch as a great many people 
absolutely repudiate it ; while, as yet, the attempt 
to give it the authority of a revelation has not been 
made. 

As Hume says with profound truth in the fourth 
essay, On tJie First Frindphs of Government 

*‘As force is always on the side of the governed, 
the governors have nothing to support them but opinion* 
It is, therefore, on opinion only that government is 
founded ; and this maxim extends to the most despotic and 
most military governments, as wall as to the most free and the 
mostpopular,”— -(IIL 31.) 

But if the whole fabric of social organisation rests on 
opinion, it may surely be fairly argued that, in the 
interests of self-preservation, if for no better reason, 
society has a right to see that the means of forming 
just dpinions are placed within the reach of every one 
of its members; and, therefore, that due provision for 




te HUME. foHAP. 

education, at any rate, is a right and, indeed, a duty, 
of the state. 

The three opinions upon which all government, or the 
authority of the few over the many, is founded, says 
Hume, are public interest, right to power, and right to 
property. Ho government can permanently exist, unless 
the majority of the citizens, who are the ultimate 
depositary of Porce, are convinced that it serves the 
general interest, that it has lawful authority, and that 
it respects individual rights : — 

government may endure for several ages, though the 
balance of power and the balance of property do not coincide 
.... But where the original constitution allows any share of 
power, though small, to an order of men who possess a large 
sham of property, it is easy for them gradually to stretch 
their authority, and bring the balance of power to coincide 
with that of property. This has been the case with the 
"House of Commons in England.’’ — (III. 34.) 

Hume then points out that, in his time, the authority 
of the Commons was by no means equivalent to the 
property and power it represented, and proceeds ; — 

“Were the members obliged to receive instructions from their 
constituents, like the Dutch deputies, this would entirely alter 
the case ; and .if such immense power and riches as those of 
^ Hie Commons of Great Britain, were brought into the scale, 
It IS not easy to conceive that the crown could either influence 
^t multitude of people, or withstand that balance of property. 
ItK Iroe, the crown has great influence over the collective 
body m the elections of members ; but were this influence, 
which at present is only exerted once in seven years, to be 
employed in bringing over the people to every vote, it would 
soon be wasted, and no skill, popularity, or revenue could 
support it I must, therefore, be of opinion that an altera- 
tion m this particular would introduce a total alteration in our 


1.1 


POLITICAL PEOGKOSTICATIOHS. 


17 


govemmentj would soon reduce it to a pure republic ; and, 
perhaps, to a republic of no inconvenient form.” — ^(IIL 35,) 

Viewed by the light of subsequent events, this is 
surely a very remarkable example of political sagacity. 
The members of the House of Commons are not yet 
del^ates ; but, with the widening of the suffrage and 
the rapidly increasing tendency to drill and organise the 
electorate, and to exact definite pledges from candidates, 
they are rapidly becoming, if not delegates, at least 
attorneys for committees of electors. The same causes 
are constantly tending to exclude men, who combine 
a keen sense of self-respect wdth large intellectual capa- 
city, from a position in which the one is as constantly 
offended, as the other is neutralised. Notwithstanding 
the attempt of George the Third to resuscitate the royal 
authority, Hume’s foresight has been so completely jus- 
tified that no one now dreams of the crown exerting the 
slightest influence upon elections. 

In the seventh essay, Hume raises a very interesting 
discussion as to the probable ultimate result of the forces 
which were at work in the British Constitution in the 
first part of the eighteenth century : — 

There has been a sudden and sensible change in the 
opinions of men, within these last ficfty years, by the progress 
of learning and of liberty. Most people in this island have 
divested themselves of all superstitious reverence to names 
and authority; the clergy have much lost their credit ; their 
pretensions and doctrines have been much ridiculed ; and even 
religion can scarcely support itself in the world. The mere 
name of Mng commands little respect ; and to talk of a king 
as God's vicegerent on earlh, or to give him any of those 
magnificent titles which formerly dazzled mankind, would but 
excite laughter in every one.”— (III. 54.) 



u 


HUME. 


[ohap. 


r': 

I 


la fact, at the present day, the danger to monarchy in 
Britain vonld appear to lie, not in increasing love for 
^aality, for which, except as regards the law, English- 
men have never cared, but rather entertain an aversion ; 
nor in any abstract democr'atic theories, upon which the 
mass of Ikiglishmen pour the contempt with which they 
view theories in general • but in the constantly increas- 
ing tendency of monarchy to become slightly absurd, 
from the ever-widening discrepancy between modern 
political ideas and the theory of kingship. As Hxime 
observes, even in Ms time, people had left off making 
believe that a king was a different species of man 
from, other men ; and, since his day, more and more 
snch make-believes have become impossible ; imtil the 
maintenance of kingship in coming generations seems 
likely to depend, entirely, upon whether it is the general 
opinion, that a hereditary president of our virtual repnb 
Kcwill serve the general interest better than an elective 
one or not. The tendency of public feeling in this direc- 
lion is patent, but it does not follow that a republic is 
to be the final stage of our government. In fact, 
Hume thinks not : — 

^ It is well known, that every government must come to a 
period, and that death is unavoidable to the political, as 
well as to the animal body. But, as one kind of death may 
he preferable to another, it may be inquired, whether it be 
more durable for the British constitution to terminate in a 
popular government, or in an absolute monarchy? Here, 
i would frankly declare, that though liberty be preferable to 
slavery in almost eveiy case ; yet I should rather wish to see 
an a^lute mon^ch than a republic in tMs island. For let us 
colder what Mnd of republic we have reason to expect. 
TUe potion is not eoneermng any fine imaginary republic of 
whieh a man forms a plan in hm closet There is no doubt 





1.1 


POLITICAL moamsTicATiom, 


19 


but a popular governinent may be imagined more perfect than 
an absolute monarchy, or even than our present constitution. 
But what reason have we to expect that any such government 
will ever be established in Great Britain, upon the dissolution 
of our monarchy ? If any single person acquire power enough 
to take our constitution to pieces, and put it up anew, he is 
really an absolute monarch ; and we have already had an in- 
stance of this kind, sufficient to convince us, that such a person 
win never resign his power, or establish any free govern-. 
ment. Matters, therefore, must be trusted to their natural 
progress and operation ; and the House of Commons, accord- 
ing to its present constitution, must be the only legislature in 
such a popular government. The inconveniences attending 
such a situation of affairs present themselves by thousands. 
If the House of Commons, in such a case, ever dissolve itself, 
which is not to be expected, we may look for a civil war 
every election. If it continue itself, we shall suffer all the 
tyranny of a faction subdivided into new factions. And, as 
such a violent government cannot long subsist, we shall at 
last, after many convulsions and civil wars, find repose in 
absolute monarchy, which it would have been happier for us 
to have established peaceably ffom the beginning. Absolute 
monarchy, therefore, is the easiest death, the true Euthanasia 
of the British constitution, 

“Thus if we have more reason to be jealous of monarchy, 
because the danger is more imminent from that quarter; we 
have also reason to be more jealous of popular government, be- 
cause that danger is more terrible. This may teach us a lesson 
of moderation in all our political controversies. — (III. 55. ) 

One may admire the sagacity of these speculations, 
and the force and clearness with which they are 
expressed, without altogether agreeing with them. Thurt 
an analogy between the social and bodily organism 
exists, and is, in many respects, clear and full of instruc- 
tive suggestion, is undeniable. Yet a state answers, 
not to an individual, but to a generic type j and there, is 




20 HUME, f chap. 

no reason, m the nature of things, why any generic type 
shouH die out. The type of the pearly Nautilus ^ }nghly 
organised as it is, has persisted with but little change 
from ths Silurian epoch till now ; and, so long as terres- 
trial conditions remain approximately similar to what 
they are at present, there is no more reason why it should 
cease to exist in the next, than in the past, hundred 
million years or so. The true ground for doubting the 
pcmbility of the establishment of absolute monarchy in 
Britain is, that opinion seems to have passed through, and 
left far behind, the stage at which such a change would 
be possible ; and the true reason for doubting the per- 
manency of a republip, if it is ever established, lies in 
the fact, that a republic requires for its maintenance a 
far higher standard of morality and of intelligence in the 
members of the state than any other* form of govern - 
ment. Samuel gave the Israelites a king because they 
were not righteous enough to do without one, with a 
pietty plain warning of what they were to expect from 
the gift. And, up to this time, the progress of such 
republics as have been established in the world has not 
been such, as to lead to any confident expectation that 
thmr foundation is laid on a sufficiently secure subsoil 
of public ^irit, morality, and intelligence. On the con- 
trary, they exhibit examples of personal corruption and 
of politick profligacy as fine as any hotbed of despotism 
has ever produced ; while they fail in the primary duty 
of the administration of justice, as none but an effete 
despotism has ever failed. 

Hume has been accused of departing, in his old age, 
from the Hberal prindples of his youth ; and, no doubt, he 
was careful, in the later editions of the Essays, to expunge 
everything that ^voured of democratic tendencies. But 


rnfmmmm 


I.] THE CONDITION OF SCOTLAND. 21 

the passage just quoted shows that this was no reuanta- 
tion, but simply a confirmation, by his experience of one 
of the most debased periods of English history, of those 
evil tendencies attendant on popular goveimment, of 
which, from the first, he was fully aware. 

In the ninth essay, On the Fartm of Great Britain, 
there occurs a passage which, while it affords evidence 
of the marvellous change which has taken place in the 
social condition of Scotland since 1741, contains an 
assertion respecting the state of the Jacobite party at 
that time, which at first seems surprising ; — 

“ As violent things have not commonly so long a duration 
as moderate, we actually find that the Jacobite party is al- 
most entirely vanished from among ns, and that the distinc- 
tion of Court and Country, which is but creeping in at 
London, is the only one that is ever mentioned in this king- 
dom. Beside the violence and openness of the Jacobite party, 
another reason has perhaps contributed to produce so sudden 
and so visible an alteration in this part of Britain. There 
are only two ranks of men among us ; gentlemen who have 
some fortune and education, and the meanest slaving poor ; 
without any considerable number of that middling rank of 
men, which abound more in England, both in cities and in 
the countiy, than in any other part of tlie world. The slav- 
ing poor are incapable of any principles ; gentlemen may be 
converted to true principles, by time and experience. The 
middling rank of men have curiosity and knowledge enough 
to form principles, but not enough to form true ones, or cor- 
rect any prejudices that they may have imbibed. And it is 
among the middling rank of people that Tory principles do 
at present prevail most in England.”— (HI, 80, note.) 

Considering that the Jacobite rebellion of 1745 broke 
out only four years after this essay was published, the 
assertion that the Jacobite party had “almost entirely 




HFME. 


[CHAF« 

vanished in 1741” soiinde strange enough : and the 
passage which contains it is omitted in the third edition 
of the Mssm/s, published in 1748. Nevertheless, Hnme 
was probably right, as the outbreak of '45 was little 
better than a Highland raid, and the Pretender obtained 
no important following in the Lowlands. 

No less curious, in comparison with what would be 
said nowadays, is Hume's remark in the Essay on the 
Bise of ^ Arts amd Sciences that — 

^ ‘‘The English are become sensible of the scandalous licen- 
tioasness of their stage from the example of the French 
decency and morals. — ^( 111 . 135 .) 

Audit is perhaps as surprising to be told, by a man 
of Hume’s literary power, that the first polite prose in 
tte English langimge was written by Swift. Locke and 
Tanple (with whom Sprat is astoundingly conjoined) 

“ knew too little of the rules of art to be esteemed ele- 
gmt writers, and the prose of Bacon, Harrington, and 
Miltai is “ altc^ether stiff and pedantic.” Hobbes, who 
whether he should be caUed a “polite ” writer or not, is 
a master of vigorous English ; Clarendon, Addison, and 
bteele (tlm last two, surely, were « polite ” writers in all 
commence} are not mentioned. 

Chi the subject of National Cha/racter, about which 
more nonseuse, and often very mischievous nonsense 
^ and is telked than upon any other topic,’ 

Hux^ 8 obs^ations am fuU of sense and shrewdness 
He distogmshes between die moral and the phyaioal 
rf national character, enumerating under the 


government, the revolutions of public 
penniy in which people live, the 



I*] 


NATIONAL CHARACTER 


M 

situation of the nation with regard to its neighbours, and 
such like circumstances/ ~(IIL 226 .) 

and under the latter 

Those qualities of the air and climate, which are supposed 
to work insensibly on the temper, by altering the tone and 
habit of the body, and giving a particular complexion, which, 
though reflexion and reason may rometimes overcome it, 
will yet prevail among the generality of mankind, and have 
an influence on their manners.’* — (III. 226.) 

While admitting and exemplifying the greirii influence 
of moral causes, Hume remarks — 

As to physical causes, I, am inclined to doubt altogetlier 
of their operation in this particular; nor do I think that 
men owe anything of their temper or genius” to the air, food, 
orclimate/’*— (IIL 227.) 

Hiime certainly would not have accepted the rice 
theory** in explanation of the social s?tate of the 
Hindoos ; and, it may be , safely assumed, that ' ■ he 
would not have' had recourse to the circumambienoe of 
the '^melancholy main** to account for the troublous 
history of Ireland. He suppoHs his views by a variety 
of strong arguments, among which, at the present con** 
juncture, it is worth noting that the following occurs— 

^ "Where any accident, as a diflterence in language or reli- 
gion, keeps two nations, inhabiting the same' country, from 
mixing, with ^ on© another, they will preserye during several 
centuries a distinct and even opposite .set of manners. The 
integrity, gravity, and bravery of the Turks, form an exact 
contrast to the deceit, levity, and cpwardice of the moda.m 
Greeks.”— (Ill 233..) 

The' question of the influence of race, which plays so 


ilUMK 


LCHAP. 


great a part in modern political speculations, was hardly 

broached in Hume’s time, but he had an inkKng of its 
izEportanoe : — 

tn Z to suspect the Negroes to be naturally inferior 

to complexion nor even any individual, eminent either in 
diff» ®P«°“^s,tiom . . . Such a uniform and constant 
*® S'Dd toe whites] could not 

happen m so many countries and ages, if nature had not 
made an ongmal distinction between these breeds of men 

of ntrt ^ toey tali of one Negro as a maii 

of parts and leammg;. but it is likely he is^admired for 
slender accomplishments, like a parrot who speaks a few 
words plainly.”-^III. 236.) speaKS a tew 

T ““ 

Hume wrote to Henry Home in June, 1742 :— 

■™7S, tbe great bookse ler in Paul’a j , ’ ■* 

toere is not a new editioo fo i. ^ Churchyard, wonders 

customers. I aTahf f 

recommended them • so that T h has everyvvhere 

success.” ’ ^ ^ toey wHI have some 

H^e had sent Butler a copy of the Treatise and had 

U. P«* Biglt n« b, “ 

‘ “^2 “rj 


r.j THE ANNANDALE TUTORSHIP. 25 

the Marquis of Annaiidale, a youig nobleman of feeble 
body and feebler mind. As might have been predicted, 
tHs venture was not more fortunate than his pre’ 
vious ones ; and, after a year’s endurance, diversified 
latterly with pecuniary squabbles, in which Hume’s 
tenacity about a somewhat small claim is remarkable, 
the engagement came to an end. 



CHAPTER II. 

LATEE TEAES: THE HISTOEY OF ENGLAITD. 


In 1744, Hume’s friends had endeavoured to procure his 
nomination to the Chair of » Ethics and pneumatic philo- 
sophy”! iu the Hniversity of Edinburgh. About this 
matter he writes to his friend William Mure : 


The Mousation of heresy, deism, sceptieism, atheism, 
was started against me; but never took, being- 
town by the contrary authority of all the good com-i 
paDy in town.^^ ® 


H fee “good company in town ” bore down the firs 
three of these charges, it is to be hoped, for the sake o 
veramty, that they knew their candidate chiefly a 
v®y ^ company that he always was ; and ha< 
as httle attention, as good company usuahy does 
solid a work as the Treatise. Hume- expressei 
not unmixed with indignation, thai 
heeehman, both clergymen and sincere 

Jdloso^y" aust not he confounded with th( 

l^; aon^ as Scottish chairs have, before now, 

be pardon - 



OFFICUL APPOINTMENTS. 


27 


OH. II.] 

thotigli liberal, professors of orthodoxy, shotild have 
expressed doubts as to his fitness for becoming a pro- 
fessedly presbyterian teacher of presbyterian youth. 
The town council, however, would not have him, 
and filled up the place with a safe nobody. 

In May, 1746, a new prospect opened. General St* 
Clair was appointed to the command of an expedition 
to Canada, and he invited Hume, at a week’s notice, to 
be his secretary ; to which office that of Judge advocate 
was afterwards added. 

Hume writes to a friend : ^<The office is very genteel, 
10^. a day, perquisites, and no expenses ; and, to 
another, he speculates on the chance of procuring a 
company in an American regiment. But this I build 
not on, nor indeed am I very fond of it,^' ha adds ; and 
this was fortunate, for the expedition, after dawdling 
away the summer in port, was suddenly diverted to an 
attack on L’Orient, where it achieved a huge failure 
and returned ignominiously to England. 

A letter to Henry Home, written when this unlucky 
expedition was recalled, shows that Hume had already 
seriously turned his attention to history. Beferring to 
an invitation to go over to Manders with the General, 
he says : 

‘^Had I any fortune which would give me a prospeot of 
leisure and opportunity to prosecute my hiitOfmcd projmk^ 
nothing could be more useful to me, and I should pick up 
more literary knowledge in one campaign by being in the 
General’s family, and being introduced frequently to the 
Buke’s, than most officers could do after many years’ service. 
But to what can all this serve? 1 am a philosopher, and io I 
suppose must continue.’' * 

But this vaticination was shortly to prove ewontoui. 


28 


HUME. 


[chap. 


Hume seems to have made a very favourable impression 
on General St. Olair, as he did upon every one with whom 
he came into pei-sonal contact ; for, being charged with a 
mission to the coui-t of Turin, in 1748, the General in- 
sisted upon the appointment of Hume as his secretai-y. He 
further made him one of his aides-de-camp j so that the 
philosopher was obliged to encase his more than portly, 
and by no means elegant, figure in a military uniform, 
liord Charlemont, who met him at Turin, says he was 
- “ disguised in scarlet,” and that ho wore his uniform 
“like a grocer of the train-bands.” Hume, always 
ready for a joke at his own expense, tells of the con- 
siderate kindness with which, at a reception at Vienna, 
the Empress-dowager released him and his friends from 
the necessity of walking backwards. “We esteemed 
ourselves very much obliged to her for this attention, 
especially my companions, who were despei-ately afraid 
01 my falling on them and crushing them/' 
Notwithstanding the many attractions of this ap- 
pomtment, Hume writes that he leaves home “ with 
m^te regret, where I had treasm-ed up stores of study 
and plaim of thinking for many years;” and his only 
consolation is that the opportunity of becoming con- 
versant with state affairs may be profitable : 

3 ill tH^ount 

, the sole object of3y\mMt2“l W 
in my riper years ^ “ intention. 

. not but some greater esnerien/ ^ question 

«d to ^ to 

«? •» >P“t ftk 0. toZibt’4".”"'" 


r I'j-.-fn ’ «■«»«>■« >.*1! 


II.] DEATH OF HIB MOTHER/ n 

Hume returned to London in 1749, and, during his 
stay there, his mother died, to his heartfelt sorrow. 
A curious story in connection with this event is told by 
Dr. Carlyle, who knew Hume well, and whose authority 
is perfectly trastworthy. 

“Mr. Boyle hearing of it, soon after went to his apartment, 
for they lodged in the same house, where he found lam in 
the deepest affliction and in a flood of tears. After the usual 
topics and condolences Mr. Boyle said to him, * My friend, y oti 
owe this uncommon grief to having thrown off the principles 
of religion : for if you had not, you would have been consoled 
with the firm belief that the good lady, who was not only tlia 
best of mothers, but tbe most pious of Christians, was com- 
pletely Imppy in the realms of the just To which David 
replied, ^Though I throw out my speculations to entertain 
the learned and metaphysical world, yet in other things I do 
not think so differently from the rest of the world as you 
imagine.’ ” 

If Hume had told this story to Dr. Carlyle, the latter 
would have said so ; it must therefore have come from 
Mr. Boyle ; and one would like to have the opportunity 
of cross-examining that gentleman as to Hume's exact 
words and their context, before implicitly accepting Ms 
version of the conversation. Mr. Boyle^s experience of 
mankind must have been small, if he had not seen 
the firmest of believers overwhelmed with grief by a 
like loss, and as completely inconsolable. Hume may 
have thrown off Mr. Boyle^s '^principles of religion/* 
but he was none the less a very honest man, perfectly 
open and candid, and the last person to use ambiguous 
phraseology, among his friends; unless, indeed, he 
saw no other way of putting a stop to the intra* 
sion of unmannerly twaddje amongst the bitter-sweet 


30 HUME. fOHAi*. 

memories stirred in his affectionate nature by so heavy 

a blow. 

The FhUosopMcal Essays or Inqidry was published in 
1748, while Hume was away with General St. Clair 
and, on his return to England, he had the mortification 
to find it overlooked in the hubbub caused by Middleton's 
Free Inquiry, and its bold handling of the topic of the 
Essay on Miracles, by which Hume doubtless expected 
the public to be startled. 

Between 1749 and 1751, Hume resided at Hinewells, 
with his brother and sister, and busied himself with the 
composition of his most finished, if not his most important 
works, the Dialogues cm. Natumcd Religion, the Inquiry 
Concerning the Frinciyles of Morals, and the Folifical 
Discourses. 

£he Dialogues on Eatural Religion were touched and 
re-touched, at intervals, for a quarter of a century, and 
were not published till after Hume’s death: but the 
I^uiry Concerning the Frindples qf Morals appeared 
in 1751, and the Folitioal Discourses in 1752. Pull 
reference will be made to the two former in the exposi- 
tion of Hume’s philosophical views. The last has been 
well said to be the “ cradle of political economy ; and 
much as that science has been investigated and ex- 
pounded, in later times, these earliest, shortest, and 
simplest developments of its principles are still read 
with deHght even by those who are masters of all the 
literature of this great subject.” i 

The Wealth of Nations, the masterpiece of Hume’s 
close friend, Adam Smith, it must be remembered, did 
not appear before 1776, so that, in poHtioal economy, 

^ af 


II.] INDIPETOENOI AHD SELF-BELUKOB. 31 

no less than in philosophy, Hume was an oi%inal, a 
daring, and a fertile innovator. 

The Political Essays had a great and rapid sucoess ; 
translated into French in 1763, and again in 1764, 
they conferred a European reputation upon their author ; 
and, what was more to the purpose, influenced the later 
French school of economists of the eighteenth century. 

By this time, Hume had not only attained a high re- 
putation in the world of letters, but he considered him- 
self a man of independent fortune. His frugal habits 
had enabled him to accumulate .£1,000, and he tells 
Michael Bamsay in 1761 : — 

n While interest remains as at present, I have ^50 a year, 
* a hundred pounds worth of books, great store of linens and 
fine clothes, and near £100 in my pocket ; along with order, 
frugality, a strong spirit of independency, good liealtb, a 
contented humour, and an unabated love of study. In these 
circumstances I must esteem myself one of the happy and 
fortunate ; and so far from being willing to draw my ticket 
over again in tlie lottery of life, there are very few priz^es with 
which I would make an ezchange. After some deliberation, 
I am resolved to settle in Edinburgh, and hope I shall be able 
with these revenues to say with Horace : — 

^ Est bona librorum ot provisa frugis in annum 
Copia/ 

It would be difiicult to find a better example of the 
honourable independence and cheerful self -reliance 
which should distinguish a man of letters, and which 
characterised Hum© throughout his career. By honour- 
able effort, the boy’s noble ideal of life, became the 
man’s reality ; and, at forty, Hume had the happiness 
of finding that he had not wasted his youth in the 
puimit of illusions, but th^^t the solid certainty of 


32 


HUME, 


[chap. 


waking bliss ” lay before him in the free play of his 
powers in their appropriate sphere. 

In 1751, Hume removed to Edinburgh and took up 
his abode on a flat in one of those prodigious houses in 
the Lawnmarket, which still excite the admiration of 
tourists ; afterwards moving to a house in the Canon- 
gate. His sister joined him, adding £30 a year to the 
common stock ; and, in one of his charmingly playful 
letters to Dr. Clephane, he thus describes his establish- 
ment, in 1753. 


« I shall exult and triumph to you a little that I have now 
at last— being turned of forty, to my own honour, to that of 
learning, and to that of the present age — arrived at the dignity 
of being a householder. ^ 

“About seven months ago, 1 got a house of my own, and 
completed a regular family, consisting of a head, viz., myself, 
and two inferior members, a maid and a cat. My sister has 
since joined me, and keeps me company. With frugality, I 
can reach, I find, cleanliness, warmth, light, plenty, and con- 
tentment. What would you have more ? Independence ? I 
have it in a supreme degree. Honour ? That is not altogether 
wanting. Grace? That will come in time. A wife? That 
h none of the indispensable requisites of life. Books ? That 
is one of them j and I have more than I can use. In short, I 
cannot find any pleasure of consequence which I am not 
possessed of in a greater or less degree : and, without any 
great effort of philosophy, I may be easy and satisfied. 

As there is no happiness without occupation, I have begun 
a work which will occupy me several years, and which yields 
me much satisfaction. *Tis a History of Britain from the 
Union of the Crowns to the present time. I have already 
nished the reign of King James. My friends flatter me (by 
this I mean that they don't flatter me) that I have succeeded.” 

In 1^52, the Faculty of Advocates elected Hume their 


Ilj 


PUBLICATION OF THE HISTOEY. 


88 


Jibrarian, an office which, though it yielded little emolu- 
ment— the salary was only forty pounds a year — was 
valuable as it placed the resources of a large library 
at his disposal. The proposal to give Hume even this 
paltry place caused a great outcry, on the old score of 
infidelity. But as Hume writes, in a jubilant letter to 
Clephane (February 4, 1762) * — 

“ I carried the election by a considerable majority. . . . 
What is more extraordinary, the cry of religion could not 
hinder the ladies from being violently my partisans, and I owe 
my success in a’ great measure to their solicitations. One has 
broke ofi all commerce with her lover because he voted 
against me I And Mr. Lockhart, in a speech to the Faculty, 
said there was no walking the streets, nor even enjoying one^s 
own fireside, on account of their importunate zeal. The town 
says that even his bed was not safe for him, though his wife 
was cousin-german to my antagonist. 

’Twas vulgarly given out that the contest was between 
Deists and Christians, and when the news of my success 
came to the playhouse, the whisper rose that the Christians 
were defeated. Are you not surprised that we could keep our 
popularity, notwithstanding this imputation, Which my friends 
could not deny to be well founded ? 

It would seem that the ■ * good company ” was less 
enterprising in its asseverations in this canvass than in 
the last. 

The first volume of the EiBtory qf Great JBritam^ 
omtadmng the reign qf James L and Oharhs was 
published in 1764. At first, the sale was large, 
especially in Edinburgh, and if notoriety pr w was 
Hume's object, he attained it. But he liked applause 
as well as fame and, to his bitter disappointment, he 



u 


HUME. 


[chap. 


*^<1 waa a$S|iled by om cry of reproach, disapprobation, and 
even detest atioii i English, Scotcliy and I^ish, and Tory , 
Churchman and Sectary, Freethinker and Religionist, Patriot 
and Courtier, united in their rage against the man who had 
presumed to shed a generous tear for the fate of Charles I’ 
and the Earl of StrafEord ; and after the first ebullitions of their 
fury were over, what was still more mortifying, the book 
' seemed to fall into oblivion. Mr. Millar told me that in a twelve- 
month he sold only forty-five copies of it. I scarcely, indeed, 
heard of one man in the three kingdoms, considerable for rank 
or letters, that could endure the book. I must only except 
the primate of England, Dr. Herring, and the primate of 
Ireland, Dr. Stone, which seem two odd exceptions. These 
dignified prelates separately sent me messages not to be 
discouraged.^^ 

It certainly is odd to think of David Hume being 
comforted in his affliction by the independent and 
spontaneous sympathy of a pair of archbishops. But 
itho instincts of the dignified prelates guided them 
rightly ; for, aa the great painter of English history in 
Whig pigments has been careful to point out,^ Hume’s 
historical picture, though a great work, drawn by a 
master hand, has all the lights Tory, and all the shades 
Whig. 

Hume's ecclesiastical enemies seem to have thought 
that their opportunity had now arrived ; and/ an attempt 
was made to get the General Assembly of 1766 to 
, appoint, a committee to inquire into "his writings. But, 
after a the proposal was rejected by fifty 

{]f votes to seventeen Hum© does not appear to have 
^ troubled himsell about the matter, and does not even 
thiuk it wprth menifion in My Oym Life, 

,, ^ Lord Macaukyi Airfitclc on History, MdMurgh Mmim, vo? 
Ixvii., . . ' 


n.l SECRETABY OF THE FEEKCH EMBASSY. m 

In 17d6 lie tells ClepBane that he is worth £1,600 
sterling, and consequently master of an income which 
must have been wealth to a man of his frugal habits, 

I In the same year, he published the second volume of the 

History, which met with a much better reception than 
the first; and, in 1757, one of his most remarkable 
works, the Natwral History of Religion, appeared. In 
the same year, he resigned his office of libraidan to the 
Faculty of Advocates, and he projected removal to 
London, probably to superintend the publication of the 
additional volume of the History, 

I shall certainly be in London next summer ; and probably 
to remain there during life : at least, if I can settle myself to 
my mind, which I beg you to have an eye to. A room in a 
sober discreet family, who would not be averse to admit 
a sober, discreet, virtuous^ regular, quiet, goodnatured man 
of a bad character — such a room, I say, would suit me 
extremely.^' ^ 

The promised visit took place in the latter part of the 
year 1758, and he remained in the metropolis for the 
greater pai't of 1759. The two volumes of the History 
of Hnglmd %mder the House of Tudor were published in 
London, shortly after Hume’s return to Edinburgh ; and, 
according to his own account, they raised almost as great 
a clamour as the first two had done. 

Busily occupied with the continuation of his historical 
lahours, Hume remained in Edinburgh until 1763 ; when, 
at the request of Lord Hertford, who was going as am- 
bassador to Prance, he was appointed to the embassy ; 
with the promise of the secretaryship, and, in the mean- 

1 Letter to Clephane, 8rd September, 1757. 

■ ■ ■ n 2 


30 


HUME. 


[chap 


wMle, performing the duties of that office. At first, Htmie 
declined the oifer ; hut, as it was particularly honourable 
to so well abused a man, on account of Lord Hertford's 
high reputation for virtue and piety, ^ and no less advan- 
tageous by reason of the increase of fortune which it 
secured to him, he eventually accepted it. 

In France, Hume's reputation stood far higher than in 
Britain; several of his works had been translated; he 
had exchanged letters with Montesquieu and with Helve- 
tius ; Rousseau had appealed to him ; and the charming 
Madame de Boufflers had drawn him into a correspon- 
dence, marked by almost passionate enthusiasm on her 
part, and as fair an imitation of enthusiasm as Hume 
was capable of, on his. In ihe extraordinary mixture 
of learning, wit, humanity, i frivolity, and profligacy 
which then characterised the highest French society, a 
new sensation was worth anything, and it mattered 
little whether the cause thereof was a philosopher or a 
poodle ji so Hume had a great success in the Parisian 
world. Great nobles f^ted him, and great ladies were 
not content unless the '^gros David" was to be seen at 
their receptions, and in their boxes at the theatre. At 
the opera his broad unmeaning face was usually to be 
seen entre deux jolis mmoisp says Lord Charlemont.^ 


^ “You must know that Lord Hertford has So high a character 
for piety, that his taking me hy the hand is a kind of regeneration 
,, to me, and all past offences are now wiped off. But all these views 
are trifling to one of my age and temper .*'— to Mmonstoney 
9th January, 1764. Lord Hertford had procured him a pension of 
£200 a year for life from the King, and the secretaryship was worth 
£100,0 a year. 

'2 Madame d’Epihay gives a ludicrous account of Hume's per- 
formance when preyed intb a tableau,, as a Sultan between two 


n] ' ' SUCCESS AKD WEALTH. ' ■ 37 

Hume’s cool head was by no means turned; but he 
took the goods the gods provided with much satisfaction ; 
and every whei'O won golden opinions by his unaffected 
good sense and thorough kindness of heai‘t, 

Over all this part of Hume’s career, as over the sur- 
prising episode of the quarrel with Eousseau, if that 
can be called quarrel which was lunatic malignity on 
Housseau’s side and thorough generosity and patience on 
Hume’s, I may pass lightly. The story is admirably 
told by Mr. Bui-ton, to whose volumes I I'efer the reader. 
JSTor need I dwell upon Hume’s short tenure of office 
in London, as Under-Secretary of State, between 176 < 
and 1769. Success and wealth are rarely interesting, 
and Hume’s case is no exception to the rule. 

According to his own description the cares of official 
life were not overwhelming. 

My way of life hero is very uniform and by no moans 
disagreeable. I have all the forenoon in the Secretary’s 
bouse, from ten till three, when there arrive from time to 
time messengers that bring me all the secrets of the king- 
dom, and, indeed, of Europe, Asia, Africa, and America. I 
am seldom hurried ; but have leisure at intervals to take up 
a book, or write a private letter, or converse with a friend 
that may call for me ,* and from dinner to bed-time is all my 
own. If you add to this that the person with whom I have 
the chief, if not only, transactions, is the most reasonable, 

slaves, personated for the occasion by two of the prettiest women 
in Paris 

V “ II les regarde attentivement, il m frapp& h mnin et lea genoux 
k plusieurs reprises et ne trouve jamais autre chose k lour dire que 
Mh him! mm demoiseUes.. — bkn! wus wil(% done, * . , Mk 
hun ! mns * , , wm mild, id t Oette phrase dura xm quart 
d’heure sans qu’il pdt on sortir/ line d’elles se leva d’impt- 
tience : Ah, dit-elle, je m^en 4tois bien dout4e, oet homme xf eat bon 
qifk manger du veau I ’ —Burton’s of Mwmf voL il, p» 214. 


S8 


HUME. 


[OHAP. 



equal-tempered, and gentleman-like man imaginable, and 
Lady Aylesbury tbe same, you will certainly think I have 
no reason to complain ; and I am far from complaining. I 
only shall not regret when my duty is over ; because to me 
the situation can lead to nothing, at least in all probability ; 
and reading, and sauntering, and lounging, and dozing, which 
I call thinking, is my supreme happiness — I mean my full 
contentment” 


Hume’s duty was soon over, and he returned to Edin- 
burgh in 1769, ^^very opulent” in the possession of 
£1,000 a year, and determined to take what remained 
to him of life pleasantly and easily. In October, 1769, 
he writes to Elliot : — 

I have been settled here two months, and am here body 
and soul, without casting the least thought of regret to 

I^ndon, or even to Paris I live still, and must for a 

twelvemontl^^ in my old house in James’s Court, which is very 
dieeiful and even elegant, but too small to display my great 
telent for cookery, the science to which I intend to addict the 
remaming years of my life. I have just now lying on tire 
^ table before me a receipt for making sowpe a la reine] copied 
with my own hand ; for beef and cabbage (a charming dish) 
mid old mutton and old claret nobody excels me. I make 
also ^eej^s-head broth in a manner that Mr. Keith speaks of 
' , for e%ht days after ; and tihe Due de Nivemois would bind 
hin^lf apprentice to my lass to learn it. I have already sent 
: a challenge to David Moncreiff : you will see that in a twel ve- 
, month he win take to the writing of history, the field I have 
. for as to* the giving of dinners, he can now have 

y»o fuller pretensioas. I should have made a very bad use 
of my abode in Pam if I could not get the better of a mere 
‘ provincial like AH my friends encourage me in this 

^ it will redound very much to my 


a house in the new town 


r VJ 


ST. DAVID’S STEBIT. 


n.] 

of Edinbarghj which was then springing np. It was the 
first house in the street, and a frolicsome yonng lady 
chalked upon the wall St. David’s Street/^ Hume*a 
servant complained to her master, who replied, “ Never 
mind, lassie, many a better man has been made a saint 
of before,” and the street retains its title to this 
day. 

In the following six years, the house in St. David^s 
Street was the centre of the accomplished and re- 
fined society which then distinguished Edinburgh. 
Adam Smith, Blair, and Ferguson were within easy 
reach; and wbat renaains of Hume’s correspondence 
with Sh Gilbert Elliot, Colonel Edmonstone, and Mrs. 
Cockburn gives pleasant glimpses of his social sur- 
roundings, and enables us to understand his content- 
ment with his absence from the more perturbed, if more 
brilliant, worlds of Pains and London. 

Towards London, Londoners, and indeed Englishmen 
in general, Hume entertained a dislike, mingled with 
contempt, which was as nearly rancorous as any emo- 
tion of his could he. Duxing his residence in Paris, in 
1764 and 1765, he writes to Blair ; — 

The taste for literature is neither decayed nor depraved 
here, as with the barbarians who inhabit the banks of the 
Thames.” 

And he speaks of the ‘^ general regard paid to genius 
and learning” in France as one of the points in which 
it most differs from England. Ten years later, he okn- 
not even thank Gibbon for his History without the left- 
handed compliment, that he should never have expected 
such .an excellent work from the' pen of an Englishman. 
Early ''in 1765, Hume^ writes to Millar . 


40 


HUME. 


[chap- 


‘‘The ra^e and prejudice of parties frighten me, and above 
all, this rage against the Scots, which is so dishonourable, and 
indeed, so infamous, to the English nation. We hear that itJ 
increases every day without the least appearance of provoca- 
tion on our part. It has frequently made me resolve never fn 
my life to set foot on English ground. I dread, if I should 
undertake a more modern history, the impertinence and ill- 
manners to which it w^ould expose me ; and I was willing to 
know from you whether former prejudices had so far subsided 
as to ensure me of a good reception. ” 

His fears were kindly appeased by Millar’s assurance 
that tiie English were not prejudiced against the Scots 
in general, hut against the particular Scot, Lord Bute, 
who was supposed to be the guide, philosopher, ^p-d 
friend, of both the King and his mother. 

To care nothing about literature, to dislike Scotchmen, 
and to be insensible to the merits of David Hume, was 
a <x)ml>iiiation of iniq^uities on the part of the Englisii. 
nation, which would have been amply sufdcient to ruffle 
the temper of the philosophic historian, who, without being 
foolishdy vain, had certainly no need of what has been 
said to be the one form of prayer in which his country- 
men, tom as they are by theological differences, agree ; 
‘^Lord 1 gie us a gude conceit o’ oursels.” But when, to 
all this, ikme same Southrons added a passionate admi- 
ration for Lord Chatham, who was in Hume’s eyes a. 
charlatan; and filled up the cup of their ahominations 
by cheering for Wilkes and Liberty,” Hume’s wratb. 
knew no bounds, and, between 1768 and 1770, he pours 
a perfect Jeremiad into the bosom of his friend Sir- 
Grilhert Elliot. 

^^Oh! how I long to see America and the East Indies 
revolted, totally and finally— the revenue reduced tp half — 


IT.] 


DISLIKE OE ENGLISHMEN. 


41 



public credit fully discredited by bankruptcy —the third of 
London in ruins, and the rascally mob subdued ! I think I 
am* not too old to despair of being witness to all these 
blessings. 

“ I am delighted to see the daily and hourly progress of 
madness and folly and wickedness in England. The consum- 
mation of these qualities are the true ingredients for making 
a fine narrative in history, especially if followed by some signal 
andVuinous convulsion — as I hope will soon be the case with 
that pernicious people 1 ’’ 

Even from the secure haven of Jameses Court, the male- 
dictions continue to pour forth : — 

‘^Nothing but a rebellion and bloodshed will open the eyes 
of that deluded people ; though were they alone concerned, I 
think it is no matter what becomes of them. . . . Our 
government has become a chimera, and is too perfect, in 
point of liberty, for so rude a beast as an Englishman ; who 
is a man, a bad animal too, corrupted by above a century 
of licentiousness. The misfortune is tliat this liberty can 
scarcely be retrenched without danger of being entirely 
lost; at least the fatal effects of licentiousness must first 
he made palpable by some extreme mischief resulting from 
it. I may wish tliat the catastrophe should rather fall on our 
posterity, but it hastens on with such largo strides as to leave 
little room for hope. 

I am running over again the last edition of my History, in 
order to correct it still farther. I either soften or expunge 
many villainous seditious Whig strokes whicli had crept into 
it I wish that my indignation at the present madness, en- 
couraged by lies, calumnies, imposture, and every infamous 
act usual among popular leaders, may not throw mo into the 
opposite extreme.” 

A %vise wish, indeed. Posterity respectfully concurs 
therein ; and subjects Hume’s estimate of England and 




42 


HUME. 


[CITAF- 


t>hmgs English to such modifications as it would pro- 
bably have undergone had the wish been fulfilled. 

In 1775, Hume’s health began to fail ; and, im 
the spring of the following year, his disorder, which 
appeaiTS to have been hsemorrhage of the bowels, at- 
tained such a height that he knew it must be fatali 
So he made his will, and wrote My Own Life^ the 
conclusion of which is one of the most cheerful, simple, 
and dignified leave-takings of life and all its concerns, 
extant. 


“ I now reckon upon a speedy dissolution. 1 have suffered 
very little pain from my disorder ; and what is more strange, 
have, notwithstanding the great decline of my person, never 
suffered a momenfs abatement of spirits; insomuch that 
were I to name the period of my life which I should most 
choose to pass over again, I might be tempted to point to this 
later period. I possess the same ardour as ever in study and 
the same gaiety in company; I consider, besides, that a man 
of sixty-five, by dying, cuts off only a few years of infirmities ; 
and though I see many symptoms of my literary reputation's 
breaking out at last with additional lustre, I know that I could 
have but few years to enjoy it. It is difficult to be more 
detached from life than I am at present. 

“To conclude historically with my own character, I am, or 
rather was (for that is the style I must now use in speaking 
of myself, which emboldens me the more to speak” my senti- 
ments) ; I was, I say, a man of mild dispositions, of command 
of temper, of an open, social, and cheerful humour, capable 
of attachment, but little susceptible of enmity, and of great 
moderation in all my passions. Even my love of literary 
fame, my ruling passion, never soured my temper, notwith- 
standing my frequent disappointments. My company was 
not unacceptable to the yoimg and careless, as well as to the 
studious and literary ; and as I took a particular pleasure in the 
company of modest women, 1 had no reason to be displeased 


THE GBAVE ON THE CALTON HILL. 


43 


n.] 

with the reception I met with from them. In a word, though 
most men any wise eminent, have found reason to complain 
of calumny, I never was touched or even attacked by her 
baleful tooth ; and though I wantonly exposed myself to tlie 
rage of both civil and religious factions, they seemed to be 
disarmed in my behalf of their wonted fury. My friends 
never had occasion to vindicate any one circumstance of my 
character and conduct ; not but that the zealots, we may well 
suppose, would have been glad to invent and propagate any 
story to my disadvantage, but they could never find any 
which they thought would wear the face of probability. 1 
cannot say there is no vanity in making this funeral oration 
of myself, but I hope it is not a misplaced one ; and this is a 
matter of fact which is easily cleared and ascertained.” 


Hume died in Edinburgh on the 25th of August, 1776, 
and, a few days later, his body, attended by a great 
concourse of people, who seem to have anticipated for it 
the fate appropriate to the remains of wizards and necro- 
mancers, was deposited in a spot selected by himself, in 
an old burial-ground on the eastern slope of the Oalton 
Hill. 

From the summit of this hill, there is a prospect 
uneq[ualled by any to be seen from the midst of a great 
city. Westward lies the Forth, and beyond it, dimly blue, 
the far away Highland hills ; eastward, rise the bold con- 
tours of Arthur’s Seat and the rtigged crags of the Castle 
rock, with the grey Old Town of Edinburgh ; while, far 
below, from a maze of crowded thoroughfares, the hoarse 
murmur ‘of the toil of a polity of energetic men is borne 
upon the ear. At times, a man may be as solitary here 
as in a veritable wilderness ; and may meditate undis- 
turbedly upon the epitome of nature and of man~the 
kingdoms of this world-spread out before him. 


44 


HUME. 


[oh A? 


Surely, there is a fitness in the choice of this last 
resting-place by the philosopher and historian, who 
saw so clearly that these two kingdoms form but one 
realm, governed by uniform laws and alike based on 
impenetrable darkness and eternal silence : and faith- 
ful to the last to that profound veracity which wm 
the secret of his philosophic greatness, he ordered that 
the simple Eoman tomb which marks his grave should 
bear no inscription but 

DAVID HUME 
Boen 1711. Died 1776. 

Leaving it to posterity to add tJw rest 

It was by the desire and at the suggestion of my friend, 
the Editor of this Series, that I undertook to attempt to 
help posterity in the difficult business of knowing what 
to add to Hume’s epitaph; and I might, with justice, 
throw upon him the responsibility of my apparent pre- 
sumption in occupying a place among the men of letters, 
who are engaged with him, in their proper function of 
writing about English Men of Letters. 

That to which succeeding generations have made, are 
making, and will make, continual additions, however, 
is Hume’s fame as a philosopher; and, though I know 
that my plea will add to my offence in some quarters, 
I must plead, in extenuation of my audacity, that philo- 
sophy lies in the province of science, and not in that of 
letters. 

In dealing with Hume’s Life, I have endeavoured, as 
far as possible, to make him speak for himself. If the 
extracts from his letters and essays which I have given 


n.] EEFEEENCES TO HUME^S WBITIKGS. 45 

do not sufficiently show what manner of man he was, I 
am sure that nothing I could say would make the case 
plainer. In the exposition of Humo's philosophy which 
follows, I have pursued the same plan, and I have ap- 
plied myself to the task of selecting and an^anging in 
systematic order, the passages which appeared to me to 
contain the clearest statements of Hume's opinions. 

I should have been glad to be able to confine 
myself to this duty, and to limit my own comments 
to so much as was absolutely necessary to connect my 
excerpts. Here and there, however, it must be confessed 
that more is seen of my thread than of Hume's beads. 
My excuse must be an ineradicable tendency to try 
to make things clear ; while, I may further hope, that 
there is nothing in what I may have said, which is 
inconsistent with the logical development of Hume's 
principles. 

My authority for the facts of Hume's life is the ad- 
mirable biography, published in 1846, by Mr. John Hill 
Burton. The edition of Hume's works from which all 
citations are made is that published by Black and Tait 
in Edinburgh, in 1826. In this edition, the Essays ar*6 
reprinted from the edition of 1777, corrected by the 
atithor for the press a short time before his death. It 
)S well printed in four handy volumes ; and as my copy 
has long been in my possession, and bears marks of much 
I’eading, it would have been troublesome for me to refer to 
any other. But, for the convenience of those who possess 
some other edition, the following table of the contents 
of the edition of 1826, with the paging of the four 
volumes, is given 


40 


HUME. 


[chap. 


VOLUME I 

Teeatise of Human Natuee. 

Book I. Of the. Understandmgj p. 5 to the end, p. 34'Z. 

VOLUME 11. 

Teeatise op Human Natube. 

Book 11. Of the Passions j p. 3— p. 215. 

Book III. Of Morals, p. 219 — p. 415. 

Dialogues coNCERNiNa Natural Eeligion, p. 419— p, 548. 
Appendix to the Treatise, p. 551— p. 560. 

VOLUME TIL 

Essays, Moral ^nd Political, p. 3 — p. 282. 
PoLiTioAL DisIoubses, p. 285— p. 579. 

VOLUME IV. 

An Inquiry concerning Human Understanding, p. 3*^ 
p.233. 

An Inquiry concerning the Principles of Morat. 8, p. 207— 

p. 431. 

The Natural History of Eeligion, p. 435— p. 513. 
Additional Essays, p. 517— p. 577. 



As tlie volume and the page of the volume are given 
in my references, it will be easy, by the help of this 
table, to learn where to look for any passage cited, in 
differently arranged editions. 


I 




PAET IL 

HTJMWS FEILOSOPHT. 


CHAPTER!. 

THE OBJECT AND SCOPE OP PHILOSOPHY. 

Kant has said that the biismess of philosophy is to an* 
swer three questions : What can I know % What ought 
I to do \ and Per what may I hope 1 But it is pretty 
plain that these three resolve themselves, in the long 
run, into the first. For rational expectation and moral 
action are alike based upon beliefs ; and a belief is void 
of justification, uijless ii^s subject-matter lies within the 
boundaries of possible knowledge, and unless its evi- 
dence satisfies the conditions which experience imposes 
as the guarantee of credibility. 

Fundamentally, then, philosophy is the answer to the 
question, What can I know? and it is by applying itself 
to this problem, that philosophy is properly distinguished 
as a special department of scientific research. What is 
commonly called science, whether mathematical, physical, 
or biological; consists of the answers which mankind 



CH. I.] THE OBJECT AKD SCOPE OF PHILOSOPHY. 49 


have been able to give to the inquiry, What do I know ? 
They furnish us with the results of the mental opera- 
tions which constitute thinking ; while philosophy, in 
the stricter sense of the ' term, inquires into the 
foundation of the first principles which those operations 
assume or imply. 

But though, by reason of the special purpose of philo- 
sophy, its distinctness fx’om other branches of scientific 
investigation may be properly vindicated, it is easy to 
see that, from the nature of its subject-matter, it is 
intimately and, indeed, inseparably connected with one 
branch of science. For it is obviously impossible to answer 
the question. What can we know ? unless, in the first 
place, there is a clear understanding as to what is meant 
by knowledge; and, having settled this point, the next 
step is to inquire how we come by that which we 
allow to be knowledge ; for, upon the reply, tuims the an- 
swer to the further question, whether, from the nature 
of the case, there are limits to the knowable or not. 
While, finally, inasmuch as What can I know ? not only 
refers to knowledge of the past or of the present, but to 
the confident expectation which we call knowledge of 
the futm'© ; it is necessary to ask, further, what justi- 
fication can be alleged for trusting to the guidance of 
our expectations in practical conduct. 

It smely needs no argumentation to show, that the 
first problem cannot be approached without the exami- 
nation of the contents of the mind j and the determina- 
tion of how much of these contents may be calletl 
knowledge. ITor can the second problem be dealt with 
in any other fashion ; for it is only by the observation of 
the growth of knowledge that we can rationally hope to 
discover how knowledge grows. But the solution of the 


I 


50 HUME. [chap. 

tkird problem simply involves the discussion of the data 
obtained by the investigation of the foregoing two. 

Thus, in order to answer three out of the four sub- 
ordinate questions into which What can I know 1 breaks 
up, we must have recourse to that investigation of 
mental phenomena, the results of wHch are embodied 
in the science of psychology. 

Psychology is a part of the science of life or biology, 
which differs from the other branches of that science, 
merely in so far as it deals with the psychical, instead 
of the physical, phenomena of life. 

As there is an anatomy of the body, so there is an 
anatomy of the mind ; the psychologist dissects mental 
phenomena into elementary states of consciousness, as 
the anatomist resolves limbs into tissues, and tissues into 
cells. The one traces the development of complex organs 
from simple rudiments ; the other follows the building 
up of complex conceptions out of simpler constituents 
of thought. As the physiologist inquires into the way 
in which the so-called “functions’’ of the body are 
performed, so the psychologist studies the so-called 
** faculties ” of the mind. Even a cursory attention to 
the ways and works of the lower animals suggests a 
comparative anatomy and physiology of the mind ; and 
the doctrine of evolution presses for application as much 
in the one field as in the other. 

But there is more than a parallel, there is a close and 
intoiale connexion between psychology and physiology. 
]N^o one doubts that, at any rate, some mental states are 
dependent for their existence on the performance of the 
functions of particular bodily organs. There is no seeing 
wiiiiout ey^ and no hearing without ears. If the origin 
of the contents of ike mind is truly a philosophical 


I.] THE OBJECT AHH SCOPE OF PHILOSOPHY. 61 


problem, then the philosopher who attempts to deal 
with that problem, without acquainting himself with the 
physiology of sensation, has no more intelligent concep- 
tion of his business than the physiologist, who thinks 
he can discuss locomotion, without an acquaintance with 
the principles of mechanics ; or respiration, without some 
tincture of chemistry. 

On whatever ground we term physiology, science, 
psychology is entitled to the same appellation ; and the 
method of investigation which elucidates the true relations 
of the one set of phenomena will discover those of the 
other. Hence, as philosophy is, in great measxire, the ex- 
ponent of the logical consequences of certain data estab- 
lished by psychology; and as psychology itself di£f el’s from 
physical science only in the nature of its subject-matter, 
and not in its method of investigation, it would seem 
to be an obvious conclusion, that philosophers are likely 
to be successful in their inquiries, in proportion as they 
are familiar with the application of scientific method 
to less abstruse subjects ; just as it seems to require 
no elaborate demonstration, that an astronomer, who 
wishes to comprehend the solar system, would do well to 
acquire a preliminary acquaintance with the elements of 
physics. And it is accordant with this presumption, 
that the men who have made the most important 
positive additions to philosophy, such as Descartes, 
Spinoza, and Kant, not to mention more recent examples, 
have been deeply imbued with the spirit of physical 
science ; and, in some cases, such as those of Descartes 
and Kant, have been largely acquainted with its details. 
On the other hand, the founder of Positivism no less 
admirably illustrates the connexion of scientific in- 
capacity with philosophical incompetence. In truth, 


HUME. 


[OHAP. 


the laboratory is the fore-oourt of the temple of philo- 
sophy ; and whoso has not offered sacrifices and under- 
gone purification there, has little chance of admission 
into the sanctuary. 

Obvious as these considerations may appear to be, it 
would be wrong to ignoi-e the fact that their force is by 
no means universally admitted. On the contrary, the 
necessity for a proper psychological and physiological 
training to the student of philosophy is denied, on the 
one hand, by the ^^pure metaphysicians,’’ who attempt 
to base the theory of knowing upon supposed necessary 
and universal truths, and assert that scientific observation 
is impossible unless such truths are fxlready known or 
implied : which, to those who are not pure metaphysi- 
cians,’' seems very much as if one should say that the 
fall of a stone cannot be observed, unless the law of 
gravitation is already in the mind of the observer. 

On the other hand, the Positivists, so far as they accept 
the teachings of their master, roundly assert, at any 
rate in words, that observation of the mind is a tiring 
inherently impossible in itself, and that psychology is 
a chimera a phantasm generated by the fermentation of 
the dregs of theology. Nevertheless, if M. Comte had 
been asked what he meant by physiologie cm^brale,’' 
except that which other people call psychology ; " and 
how he knew anything about the functions of the brain, 
except by that very ‘^ observation int&ieure,” which ho 
declares to be an absurdity— it seems probable that ho 
would have found it hard to escape the admission, that, 
in vilipending psychology, he had been propounding 
solemn nonsense. 

It is assiH'edly one of Hume’s greatest merits that ho 
clearly recognised the fact that philosophy is based upon 


X.] THE OBJECT AHD SCOPE OF PHILOSOPHY. 



53 

1 psy ecology ; and that the inquiry into the contents 

I and the operations of the mind must be conducted 

I upon the same principles as a physical investigation, if 

what he calls the moral philosopher ” would attain re- 
: suits of as firm and definite a character as those which 

reward the natural philosopher.’^ ^ The title of his first 
work, a TreatisQ of Human Nature ^ heing an Attempt to 
I introduce the Experimental method of Reasoning into Moral 
Stbhjectsf sufficiently indicates the point of view from 
which Hume regarded philosophical problems ; and he 
I tells us in the preface, that his object has been to pro- 

5 mote the construction of a ‘‘science of man.” 

I 

“’Tis evident that all the sciences have a relation, greater 
I or less, to human nature ; and that, however wide any of 

I them may seem to run from it, they still return back by one 

L passage or another. Even Mathematics, Natural Philosophy, 

f and Natural Religion are in some measure dependent on the 

' science of Man ; since they lie under the cognizance of men, 

. , and are judged of by their powers and qualities. ’Tis im- 

i possible to tell what changes and improvements we miglit 

i make in these sciences were we thoroughly acquainted with 

the extent and force of human understanding, and could 
explain the nature of the ideas we employ and of the opera- 
tions we perform in our reasonings . . . . To me it seems 
evident that the essence of mind being equally unknown to 
US with that of external bodies, it must be equally impossible 
to form any notion of its powers and qualities otherwise 
than from careful and exact experiments, and the observation 


I ^ In a letter to Hutcheson (September 17th, 1739) Hume 

i remarks : — ‘‘There are different ways of examining the mind as 

well as the body. One may consider it ‘either as an anatomist or 
as a painter : either to discover its most secret springs and prin- 
ciples, or to describe the grace and beauty of its actions ; ” and he 
proceeds to justify Ms own mode of looking at the moral sentiments 
horn the anatomist’s point of view. 




54 


HTJBIE. 


[CHAP. 


of those particular effects which result from its different cir- 
cumstances and situations. And though we must endeavour 
to render all our principles as universal as possible, by tracing 
up our experiments to the utmost, and explaining all effects 
from the simplest and fewest causes, ^tis still certain we 
cannot go beyond experience ; and any hypothesis that pre- 
tends to discover the ultimate original qualities of human 
nature, ought at first to be rejected as presumptuous and 
chimeiical. . . , . 

But if this impossibility of explaining ultimate principles 
should be esteemed a defect in the science of man, I will ven- 
ture to affirm, that it is a defect common to it with all the 
science, and all the arts^ in which we can employ ourselves, 
whether they be such as are cultivated in the schools of the 
philcBophers, or practised in the shops of the meanest artisans. 
Hone of them can go beyond experience, or establish any 
principles which are not founded on that authority. Moral 
philosophy has, indeed, this peculiar disadvantage, which is not 
found in natural, that in collecting its experiments, it cannot 
make them purposely, with premeditation, and after such a 
manner as to satisfy itself concerning every particular dififi- 
culty which may arise. When f am at a loss to know the 
effects of one body upon another in any situation, I need 
them in that situation, and observe what results from 
it. But should I endeavour to clear up in the same manner 
any » doubt in moral philosophy, by placing myself in the 
same case with that wMch I consider, ’tis evident this reflec- 
tion and premeditation would so disturb the operation of my 
natural principles, as must render it impossible to form any 
conclusion from the phenomenon. We must, therefore 
glean up our experiments in this science from a cautious 
oWahon of human Kfe, and take them as they appear in 
common course of the world, by men’s behaviour in com- 

^ Where experiments 

this kn^ are ju^uously collected a nd compared, we may 

^ constantly refeis to the results of 

of his owTmind 

y ^ ^0 has here madverten% ov^tated the case. 


I.] THE OBJECT AND SCOPE OE PHILOSOPHY. 55 

hope to establish on them a science which will not be in- 
ferior in certainty, and will be much superior in utility, to any 
other of human comprehension.”— (I. pp. 7 — 11.) 

All science starts with hypotheses — in other words, 
with assumptions that are unproved, while they may be, 
and often are, erroneous ; but which are better than no- 
thing to the seeker after order in the maze of phenomena. 
And the historical progress of every science depends on 
the criticism of hypotheses — on the gradual stripping 
off, that is, of their untrue or superfluous parts — until 
there remains only that exact verbal expression of as 
much as we know of the fact, and no more, which con- 
stitutes a perfect scientiflc theory. * 

Philosophy has followed the same course as other 
branches of scientiflc investigation. The meinoi’able 
service rendei'ed to the cause of sound thinking by 
Descartes consisted in this : that he laid the foundation 
of modern philosophical criticism by his inquiry into the 
nature of certainty. It is a clear result of the investi- 
gation started by Descartes, that there is one thing of 
which no doubt can be entertained, for he who should 
pretend to doubt it would thereby prove its existence ^ 
and that is the momentary consciousness we call a 
present thought or feeling; that is safe, even if all 
other kinds of certainty are merely more or less probable 
inferences. Berkeley and Locke, each in his way, ap- 
plied philosophical criticism in other directions ; but they 
always, at any rate professedly, followed the daniesiaii 
maxim of admitting no propositions to be true but such 
as are clear, distinct, and evident, even while their argu- 
ments stripped off many a layer of hypothetical assump- 
tion which their great predecessor had left untouohedt 


56 


HUME. 


D’hap. 


No one has more clearly stated the aims of the critical 
philosopher than Locke, in a passage of the famous 
Essay concerning Human Understanding, which, perhaps, 
I ought to assume to he well known to all English 
readers, hut which so probably is unknown to this full- 
crammed and much-examined generation that I ventuin 
to cite it : 

“ If by this inquiry into the nature of the understanding I 
can discover the powers thereof, how far they reach, to what 
things they are in any degree proportionate, and wliere they 
fail us, I suppose it may be of use to prevail with the busy 
mind of man to be more cautious in meddling with things 
exceeding its comprehension : to stop when it is at the utmost 
extent of its tether ; and to sit down in quiet ignorance of 
those things which, upon examination, are proved to be 
beyond the reach of our capacities. We should not then, 
perhaps, be so forward, out of an aj0Eectation of universal 
knowledge, to raise questions aud perplex ourselves and others 
with disputes about things to which our understandings are 
not suited, and of which we cannot frame in our minds any 
clear and distinct perception, or whereof (as it has, perhaps, 
too often happened) we have not any notion at all . 

Men may find matter sufficient to busy their heads and 
employ their hands with variety, delight, and satisfaction, if 
they wiU not boldly quarrel with their own constitution and 
ffirow away the blessings their hands are filled with because 
ffiey are not big enough to grasp everything. We shall not 
have much reason to complain of the narrowness of our 
r^ds, ^ we will but employ them about what may be of use 
to us. for of that they are very capable : and it will be an 

'f “ peevishness, if we under- 

value the advantages of our knowledge, and nedect to im- 

are some things that are set out of the reach of it. It will be no 
esoMe to an idle and untoward servant who would not attend 

mmshine. The candle that is set up in us shines bright 


L] THE OBJECT AND SCOPE OF PHILOSOPHY. 57 


enougli for all our purposes . . . . Our business here 

is not to know all things, but those which concern our 
conduct’ ’ ^ 

Hume develops the same fundamental conception in 
a somewhat different way, and with a more definite 
indication of the practical benefits which may be ex- 
pected from a critical philosophy. The first and second 
parts of the twelfth section of the Inquiry are de- 
voted to a condemnation of excessive scepticism, or 
Pyrrhonism, with which Hume couples a caricature 
of the Cartesian doubt; but, in the third part, a cer- 
tain ‘‘ mitigated scepticism is recommended and 
adopted, under the title of ^'academical philosophy.’* 
After pointing out that a knowledge of the infirmities of 
the human understanding, even in its most perfect state, 
and when most accurate and cautious in its determina- 
tions, is the best check upon the tendency to dogmatism, 
Hume continues : — 

" Another species of mitigated scepticism, which may bo of 
advantage to mankind, and wbicb may be the natural result of 
the Pyrrhonian doubts and scruples, is the limitation of our 
inquiries to such subjects as are best adapted to the narrow 
capacity of human understanding. The imagination of man 
is naturally sublime, delighted with whatever is remote and 
extraordinary, and running, without control, into the most 
distant parts of space and time in order to avoid the objects 
which custom has rendered too familiar to it. A correct 
judgment observes a contrary method, and, avoiding all dis- 
tant and high inquiries, confines itself to common life, and to 
such subjects as fall under daily practice and experience ; 
leaving the more sublime topics to the embellishment of poets 
and orators, or to the arts of priests and politicians. To 
bring us to so salutary a determination, nothing can be more 

^ JjQck^ A% Essay comermng Ernmni Understanding, Book I. 
chap, i §§ 4, 5ji. 6. 


■ »■ :■ " 

58 HFME. [chap. 

serviceable than to be once thoroughly convinced of the force 
of the ‘Pybrhonian doubt, and of the impossibility that any- 
thing but the strong power of natural instinct could free us 
from it. Those who have a propensity to philosophy will 
still continue their researches ; because they reflect, that, be- 
sides the immediate pleasure attending such an occupation, 
philosophical decisions are nothing but the reflections of 
common life, methodised and corrected. But they will never 
be tempted to go beyond common life, so long as they con- 
sider the imperfection of those faculties which they employ^ 
their narrow reach, and their inaccurate operations. While 
we cannot give a satisfactory reason why we believe, after a 
thousand experiments, that a stone will fall or fire bum ; can 
we ever satisfy ourselves concerning any determination which 
we may form with regard to the origin of worlds and the 
situation of nature from and to eternity ? (IV. pp, 189 — 90.) 

But further, it is the business of criticism not only 
to keep watch over the vagaries of philosophy, but to do 
the duty of police in the whole world of thought. 
Wherever it espies sophistry or superstition they are 
to be bidden to stand ; nay, they are to be followed to 
their very dens and there apprehended and extermi- 
nated, as Othello smothered Besdemona, ^^else shell 
betray more men.'^ 

Hume warms into eloquence as he sets forth the labours 
meet for the strength and the courage of the Hercules 
of mitigated scepticism.” 

" Here, indeed, lies the justesf and most plausible objection 
against a considerable part of metaphysics, that they are not 
properly a science, but arise either from the fruitless efforts 
of human vanity, which would penetrate into subjects utterly 
inaccesfflble to the understanding, or from the craft of popular 
suf^istitions, which, being unable to defend* themselves on 
fair ground, raise these entangling brambles to cover and 


I.] THE OBJECT AND SCOPE OF PHILOSOPHY. 


59 


protect their weakness. Chased from the open country, these 
robbers fly into the forest, and lie in wait to break in npon 
every unguarded avenue of the mind and overwhelm it with 
religious fears and prejudices. The stoutest antagonist, if he 
remits his watch a moment, is oppressed ; and many, through 
cowardice and folly, open the gates to the enemies, and 
willingly receive them with reverence and submission as 
their legal soveregins. 

“ But is this a suflicient reason why philosophers should 
desist from such researches and leave superstition still in 
possession of her retreat ? Is it not proper to draw an op- 
posite conclusion, and perceive the necessity of carrying the 
war into the most secret recesses of the enemy ? . . . . • 

The only method of freeing learning at once from these 
abstruse questions, is to inquire seriously into the nature of 
human understanding, and show, from an exact analysis of its 
powers and capacity, that it is by no means fitted for such 
remote and abstruse subjects. We must submit to this fatigue, 
in order to live at ease ever after ; and must cultivate true 
metaphysics with some care, in order to destroy the false and 
adulterated." (IV. pp. 10, 11.) 

Near a century and a half has elapsed since these 
brave words were shaped by David Hume’s pen ; and 
the business of carrying the war into the enemy’s camp 
has gone on but slowly. Like other campaigns, it long 
languished for want of a good base of operations* But 
since physical science, in the course of the last fifty 
years, has brought to the front an inexhaustible supply 
of heavy artillery of a new pattern, warranted to drive 
solid bolts of fact throxtgh the thickest skulls, things are 
looking better ; though hardly more than the first faint 
flutterings of the dawn of the happy day, when supersti- 
tion and false metaphysics shall be no more and reason- 
able folks may ** live at ease,” are as yet discernible by 
i)xQ enfants perdm of the outposts. 


60 


lllJMK 


1<-H. r. 


If, m thus conceiving the object and the limitations of 
philosophy, Hume shows himself the spiritual child am 
co»ta,»te of the wi of Locto, he .pp,.., „„ 
Italy os the porent of Kont .„d .o the pr„t«o„i. “ 
„,d.m wy of thinfciog, ^uehh,., |.e;, el°j 

W» themd.spe.».Mo condltioo. of either „,iCo 
or negative know edge, m many propositions, respect- 
mg which, not only the vulgar, but philosophers 0/ the 
eort. „y,Uo .1,0 w, 

The aim of the Ifritik der reimn Vemuv/t is essen- 

pLlSv ’’ develop that “ critical 

pMosophy with which his name and fame are india 

sdubly bound up : and, if the details of Kant's criticism 
difier from those of Hume, they coincide with tlem S 
their main result, which is the limitation of nll kTow 

o. V «» 

uhor^^ of Konigsherg epitomises the philoso- 

gta^hyr*’- ““ =“”» »P 

0 fpS‘,^l“*,"fef 2 “? *• »'• "» »« *11 pMotoph, 
not as an organon for the enl ^ ®*”oo it serves, 

a discipline for its SmitaSr^'f 

«, h„ ..ly 


^Titik def 


reinen 


Vernwnft, Ed. Hartenstei 


an, p. 256. 


CHAPTEE IL 


THE CONTENTS OP THE MINE. 

In the language of common life, the is spoken 

of as an entity, independent of the hody, though resi- 
dent in and closely connected with it, and endowed with 
numerous faculties,'^ such as sensibility, undei'stand- 
ing, memory, volition, which stand in the same relation 
to the mind as the oi'gans do to the body, and perform 
the functions of feeling, reasoning, remembering, atid 
willing. Of these functions, some, such as sensation, 
are supposed to be merely passive — that is, they are 
called into existence by impressions, made upon the 
sensitive faculty by a material world of real objects, of 
which cm* sensations are supposed to give us pictures ; 
others, such as the memory and the reasoning faculty, 
are considered to be partly passive and partly active ; 
while volition is held to be potentially, if not always 
actually, a spontaneous activity. 

The popular classihcation and terminology of the 
phenomena of consciousness, however, are by no means 
the first crude conceptions suggested by common sense, 
but rather a legacy, and, in many respects, a sufficiently 
dmmosa Imreditas^ of ancient philosophy, more or less 


62 


HUME. 


[OEAP; 


leavened by theology ; which has incorporated itself 
with the common thought of later times, as the vices of 
the aristocracy of one age become those of the mob in 
the next. Yery little attention to what passes in the 
mind is sufficient to show, that these conceptions involve 
assumptions of an extremely hypothetical chai'actei*. 
And the first business of the student of psychology 
is to get rid of such pi’epossessions ; to form con- 
ceptions of mental phenomena as they are given us 
by observation, without any hypothetical admixture, 
or with only so much as is definitely recognised and 
held subject to confirmation or otherwise ; to classify 
these phenomena according to their clearly recognisable 
characters; and to adopt a nomenclature which sug- 
gests nothing beyond the results of observation. Thus 
chastened, observation of the mind makes us acquainted 
with nothing but certain events, facts, or phenomena 
(whichever name be preferred) which pass over the 
inward field of view in rapid and, as it may appear 
on careless inspection, in disorderly succession, like 
the shifting patterns of a kaleidoscope. To all these 
mental phenomena, or states of our consciousness,^ 
Descartes gave the name of ‘thoughts,” ^ while Locke 

^ “ Consciousnesses ’’ would he a better name, but it is awkward. 
I have elsewhere proposed jpsychoses as a substantive name for 
mental phenomena. ' 

As this has been denied, it may be as well to give Descarteses 
words: “Par le mot de penser, j’en tends tout ce que se fait dans 
nous de telle sorte que nous Tapercevons imm4diatement par nousr 
m^mes : c’est pourquoi non-seulement entendre, vouloir, imaginer, 
mais aussi sentir, ceest le mime chose ici que penser.”— 
de IWosopTuie. Ed. Cousin. 67. 

“Toutes les propriitAs que nous trouvons en la chose qui pense 
ne sont que des famous difidrentes de penser.” — lUd, 96. 


n.] the COI^TEKTS OF THE MINI). hB 

and Berkeley termed tliem ideas.” Hume, regarding 
this as an improper use of the word '' idea/' for which 
he proposes another employment, gives the general name 
of perceptions ” to all states of consciousness. Thus, 
whatever other signification we may see reason to attach 
to the word ^^mind,” it is certain that it is a name 
which is employed to denote a series of perceptions ; 
just as the word '^tune,” whatever else it may mean, 
denotes, in the first place, a succession of musical notes. 
Hume, indeed, goes further than others when he says 
that — 

“ What we call a mind is nothing but a heap or collection 
of different perceptions, united together by certain relations, 
and supposed, though falsely, to be endowed with a perfect 
simplicity and identity.'’-~(I p. 268 .) 

With this ^^nothing hut/' however, he obviously falls into 
the primal and perennial error of philosophical specu* 
lators— dogmatising from negative arguments. He may 
beright or wrong; but the most he, or anybody else, 
can prove in favour of his conclusion is, that we know 
nothing more of the mind than that it is a series of percep- 
tions. Whether there is something in the mind that lies 
beyond the reach of observation ; or whether perceptions 
themselves are the products of something which can be 
observed and which is not mind ; are questions which 
can in nowise be settled by^ direct observation. Else- 
where,^ the objectionable hypothetical element of the 
definition of mind is less prominent 

^'The true idea of the human mind is to consider it as a 
system of different perceptions, or different existences, wliich 


u 


J-IUMK. 


[f^UAP. 

are Jinked together by the relation of cause and effect 
and mutually produce, destroy, influence and modify each 
other. ... In this respect I cannot compare tlio soul more 
properly to anything than a republic or commonwealth in 
which the several members are united by the reciprocal ties 
of government and subordination, and give rise to other 
persons who propagate the same republic in the incessant 
changes of its parts.” — (I. p. 331). 

But, leaving the question of the proper definition of 
mind open for the present, it is further a matter of 
direct observation, that, when we take a general survey 
of all our perceptions or states of consciousness, they 
naturally fall into sundry groups or classes. Of these 
classes, two are distinguished by Hume as of primary 
importance. All “perceptions,” he says, are either 
‘Impressiom or Ideas/' 

Under “impressions” he includes “all our more 
lively perceptions, when we hear, see, feel, love or 
will;” in other words, “all our sensations, passions 
and em Jions, as they make their first appearance in the 
soul ” (I. p. 15). 

^ “Ideas,” on the other hand, are the faint images of 

mpressions in thinking and reasoning, or of antecedent 
ideas. 

BotA impressions and ideas may be either simple, 
when they are meapable of further analysis, or 
when they may be resolved into simpler constituents. 
All simple ideas are exact copies of impressions ; but, in 
^plex^ideas, the arrangement of simple constituents 
be different from that of the impressions of which 
tJiose Simple ideas are copies. 

Thus the colours red and blue and the odour of a rose 
ai-e simple impressions ; while the ideas of blue, of rod! 


II.] THE CONTENTS OE THE MIND. 65 

and of rose-odonr are simple copies of these impi'es- 
sions. But a red rose gives us a complex impression, 
capable of resolution into the simple impressions of red 
colour, rose-scent, and numerous others ; and we may 
have a complex idea, which is an accurate, though faint, 
copy of this complex impression. Once in possession of 
the ideas of a red rose and of the colour blue, we may, in 
imagination, substitute blue for z'ed ; and thus obtain a 
complex idea of a blue rose, which is not an actual copy 
of any complex impression, though all its elements are 
such copies. 

Hume has been criticised for making the distinction 
of impressions and ideas to depend upon their relative 
strength or vivacity. Yet it would be hard to point 
out any other character by which the things signified 
can be distinguished. Any one who has paid attention 
to the curious subject of what are called subjective 
sensations ” will be familiar with examples of the ex- 
treme difficulty which sometimes attends the discrimi- 
nation of ideas of sensation from impi'essions of sensation, 
when the ideas are very vivid, or the impressions are 
faint. Who has not fancied ” he heard a noise ; or has 
not explained inattention to a z-eal sound by saying, I 
thought it was nothing but my fancy '' ? Even healthy 
persons are much moi'e liable to both visual and auditory 
spectra — that is, ideas of vision and sound so vivid that 
they are taken for new impressions — than is commonly 
supposed ; and, in some diseased states, ideas of sensible 
objects may assume all the vividness of reality. 

If ideas are nothing but copies of impressions, 
arranged, either in the same order as that of the impres- 
sions from which they are derived, or in a different order, 
it follows that the ultimate analysis of the contents of 


i 


the mind turns upon that of the impressions. According 
to Hume, these are of two kinds : either they are impres- 
sions of sensation, or they are impressions of reflection- 
The former are those afforded by the five senses, together 
with pleasure and pain. The latter are the passions or 
the emotions (which Hume employs as equivalent terms). 
Thus the elementary states of consciousness, the raw 
materials of knowledge, so to speak, are either sensa- 
tions or emotions ; and whatever we discover in the mind, 
beyond these elementary states of consciousness, results 
from the combinations and the metamorphoses which 
they undergo. 

It is not a little strange that a thinker of Hume's 
capacity should have been satisfied with the results of a 
psychological analysis which regards some obvious com- 
pounds as elements, while it omits altogether a most 
important class of elementary states. 

With respect to the former point, Spinoza's masterly 
examination of the Passions in the third part of the 
Ethics should have been known to Hume.^ But, if he 
had been acquainted with that wonderful piece of psy- 
chological anatomy, he would have learned that the 
emotions and passions are all complex states, arising 
from the close association of ideas of pleasure or pain 
with other ideas ; and, indeed, without going to Spinoza, 
his own acute discussion of the passions leads to the 
same result, ^ and is wholly inconsistent with his classi- 

1 On the whole, it is pleasant to find satisfactory evidence that 
Hume knew nothing of the works of Spinoza ; for the invariably 
ahusive manner in which he refers to that type of the philosophic 
hero is only to be excused, if it is to be excused, by sheer ignorance 
of his life and work. 

- For example, in discussing pride and humility, Hume says 


THE CONTENTS OF THE MINB. 


67 


n.] 

fication of those mental states among the primary 
uncompounded materials of consciousness. 

If Hume’s ^‘impressions of reflection” are excluded 
from among the primary elements of consciousness, 
nothing is left but the impressions afforded by the 
five senses, with pleasure and pain. Putting aside 
the muscular sense, which had not come into view in 
Hume’s time, the questions arise whether these are all 
the simple undecomposable materials of thought? or 
whether others exist of which Hume take no cognizance. 

Hant answered the latter question in the affirmative, 
in the Kritih der reinen VeTnunft, and thereby made 
one of the greatest advances ever effected in philosophy ; 
though it must be confessed that the German philo- 
sopher’s exposition of his views is so perplexed in style, 
so burdened with the weight of a cumbrous and uncouth 
scholasticism, that it is easy to confound the unessential 
parts of his system with those which are of profound 
importance. His baggage train is bigger than his army, 
and the student who attacks him is too often led to 
suspect he has won a position when he has only 
captured a mob of useless camp-followers. 

In his Principles of Psychology, Mr. Herbert Spencer 
appears to me to have brought out the essential truth 

“According as our idea of ourselves is more or less advantageous, 
we feel either of these opposite affections, and are elated by pride 
or dejected with humility . . . when self enters not into the con- 
sideration there is no room either for pride or humility." That is, 
pride is pleasure, and humility is pain, associated with certain con- 
ceptions of one^s self ; or, as Spinoza puts it ; — Superbia cst de 
se prse amore sui plus justo sentire" (‘‘amor" being “Isetitia 
concomitante idea causae externae"),' and “Humilitas est tristitia 
orta ex eo (|uod homo suam impotentiam sive imbecillitatem con- 
templatur.” 

F 2 


68 


HUME. 


[OHAF, 


wMch. underlies Kant^s doctrine in a far* clearer manner 
than any one else; but, for the purpose of the present 
summary view of Hume^s philosophy, it must suffice if I 
state the matter in my own way, giving the broad out- 
lines, without entering into the details of a large and 
difficult discussion. 

When a red light flashes across the fleld of vision, 
there arises in the mind an impression of sensation 
— which we call red. It appears to me that this sensa- 
tion, red, is a something which may exist altogether 
independently of any other impression, or idea, as an 
individual existence. It is perfectly conceivable that 
a sentient being should have no sense but vision, and 
that he should have spent his existence in absolute 
darkness, with the exception of one solitary flash of 
red light. That momentary illumination would suffice 
to give him the impi'ession under consideration ; and 
the whole content of his consciousness might be that 
impression ; and, if he were endowed with memory, 
its idea. 

Such being the state of affairs, suppose a second 
flash of red light to follow the flrst. If there were no 
memory of the latter, the state of the mind on the 
second occasion would simply be a repetition of that 
which occurred before. There would be merely another 
impression. 

But suppose memory to exist, and that an idea of the 
first impression is generated; then, if the supposed 
sentient being were like ourselves, there might arise in 
his mind two altogether new impressions. The one is 
the feeling of the succession of the two impressions, 
the other is the feeling of their similarity. 

Yet a third case is conceivable. Suppose two flashes 


XL] THE CONTENTS OF THE MINE. 69 

of red light to occur together, then a third feeling might 
arise which is neither succession nor similarity, but 
that which we call co~existence. 

These feelings, or their contraries, are the foundation 
of everything that we call a relation. They are no 
more capable of being described than sensations are ; 
and, as it appears to me, they are as little susceptible of 
analysis into simpler elements. Like simple tastes and 
smells, or feelings of pleasure and pain, they are ulti- 
mate irresolvable facts of conscious experience ; and, if 
we follow the principle of Hume^s nomenclature, they 
must be called impressions of relation. But it musb be 
remembered, that they differ from the other impressions, 
in requiring the pre -existence of at least two of the 
latter. Though devoid of the slightest resemblance to 
the other impressions, they are, in a manner, generated 
by them. In fact, we may regard them as a kind of 
impressions of impressions ; or as the sensations of an 
inner sense, which takes cognizance of the materials 
furnished to it by the outer senses. 

Hume failed as completely as his predecessors had 
done to recognise the elementary character of impressions 
of relation ; and, when he discusses relations, he falls 
into a chaos of confusion and self-contradiction. 

In the Treatise^ for example, (Book I., § iv.) re- 
semblance, contiguity in time and space, and cause and 
effect, are said to be the “ uniting principles among 
ideas,” '^the bond of union” or ‘‘associating quality by 
which one idea naturally introduces another.” Hume 
affirms that — 

“ These qualities produce an association among ideas, and 
upon the appearance of one idea naturally introduce another.’* 
They are “the principles of union or cohesion among our 


-•imitlo nn,?, in the iintglnawon, supply the place of that 
in^parahle e«nncution by which they are united in our 
Here i« a kind of attraction, which, in the mental 
«nrhl be found to have as extraordinary effects as in 
iiaUiral, and to show jteeif in as many and as various 
Its rlTiw-ti are everywhere conspicuous ; but, as to 
its raiisi.* they are inoatly unknown, and must he resolved 
V.in ori^innt qoalilicaof human nature, which I pretend not 
ff. <-iipUin.«"-™({, p. 29.) 

And at the end of thia section Hume goes on to 

*’ hmmm^ tlif ihmmlm or association of idea% 

mm t^markabte than those complex ideas 
ilifv rtiiiimon iwbji^cts of oiir thought and reasonings 
-in»l f %fm fwin iotiii principle of union among our 
•iii'iplp hhm. flwm ideas may be resolved into 

111 llw wliick is dwoted io Relations, 

llif'y mm pf «t« qiialltias which, two ideas 

%m ill tlii im:igination,” or which 

iiiiiIp admit of Poin|»ristm/* and seven kinds of 

Artt namely^ memUcmce, - 

$fmm mid linm^ ffi#fil% Of 'mmihr, degrees of quality ^ 
wmirnrmili, mulrnim mnd 

fm l!i» wiilrrof whose oonoaptions are usually 

■«t vlmf^ dufiiulPt mmkUn% it is as unsatisfactory 
44 ii I* #iir pri Aiiti to with so much questionable and 
pWiw jitiriiapfdif I iu a mndl space. One and the same 
ililiif , Uf pmmhhnm, is first called a quality 

ml til mi ^»dly a “ mmfhx idmR , Surely it 
tm y^k which have the qualities of 

mrnmUmm, and cause and efiect/^ are said 

p* * * ilUwl me »»iplh«r ** (wifi thi,m»k i), and so become 



n.] THE CONTENTS OF THE MIND. 71 

associated ; though, in a subsequent part of the Treatise^ 
Hume’s great effort is to prove that the relation of cause 
and effect is a particular case of the process of associa' 
tion ; that is to say, is a result of the process of which it 
is supposed to be the cause. Moreover, since, as Hume 
is never weary of reminding his readers, there is no- 
thing in ideas save copies of impi'essions, the qualities of 
resemblance, contiguity, and so on, in the idea, must have 
existed in the impression of which that idea is a copy ; 
and therefox'e they must be either sensations or emotions 
— from both of which classes they ax'e excluded. 

In fact, in one place, Hume himself has an insight 
into the real nature of relations. Speaking of equality, 
in the sense of a relation of quantity, he says — 

Since equality is a relation, it is not, strictly speaking, a 
property in the figures themselves, but arises merely from the 
comparison which the mind makes between them.” — (I. p. 70.) 

That is to say, when two impressions of equal figui'es 
are present, there arises in the mind a tertium quid, which 
is the perception of equality. On his own principles, 
Hume should therefore have placed this perception ” 
among the ideas of reflection. However, as we have 
seen, he expressly excludes everything but the emotions 
and the passions from this group. 

It is necessary therefore to amend Hume’s primary 
“ geography of the mind ” by the excision of one terii- 
tory and the addition of another ; and the elementary 
states of consciousness will stand thus : — 

A. Impressions. 

A. Sensations of 
a. Smell. 
h. Taste. 


n 


HUME. 


[CHAI?. 


c. Hearing. 

d. Sight. 

e. Touch. 

f. Kesistance (the muscular sense). 

B. Pleasure and Pain. 

c. Pelations. 

a. Co-existence. 

5. Succession. 

c. Similarity and dissimilarity. 

B. Ideas. 

Copies, or reproductions in memory, of the foregoing. 

And now the question arises, whether any, and if so 
what, portion of these contents of the mind are to be 
termed knowledge.^’ 

According to Locke, ‘^Knowledge is the perception 
of the agreement or disagreement of two ideas j ’’ and 
Hume, though he does not say so in so many words, 
tacitly accepts the definition. It follows, that neither 
simple sensation, nor simple emotion, constitutes know- 
ledge ; but that, when impressions of relation are added 
to these impressions, or their ideas, knowledge arises ; 
and that all knowledge is the knowledge of likenesses 
and unlikenesses, co-existences and successions. 

It really matters very little in what sense terms are 
used, so long as the same meaning is always rigidly 
attached to them; and, therefore, it is hardly worth 
while to quarrel with this generally accepted, though very 
arbitrary, limitation of the signification of '^knowledge.” 
But, on the face of the matter, it is not obvious why the 
impression we call a relation should have a better claim 
to the title of knowledge, than that which we call a 
sensation or an emotion ; and the restriction has this 


n.] 


THJK COHTEHTS OF THE MIND. 


73 


unfortunate result, that it excludes all the most intense 
states of consciousness from any claim to the title of 

knowledge.” 

For example, on this view, pain, so violent and absorb- 
ing as to exclude all other forms of consciousness, is 
not knowledge ; but becomes a part of knowledge the 
moment we think of it in relation to another pain, or 
to some other mental phenomenon. . Surely this is 
somewhat incon-venient, for there is only a verbal dif- 
ference between having a sensation and knowing one 
has it : they are simply two phrases for the same 
mental state. 

But the pure metaphysicians'^ make great capital 
out of the ambiguity. For, starting with the assumption 
that all knowledge is the perception of relations, and 
finding themselves, like mere common sense folks, 
very much disposed to call sensation knowledge, they at 
onco gratify that disposition and save their consistency, 
by declaring that even the simplest act of sensation 
contains two terms and a relation— the sensitive sub- 
ject, the sensigenous object, and that masterful entity, 
the Ego. From which great triad, as from a gnostic 
Trinity, emanates an endless pi'ocession of other logical 
shadows and all the Fata Morgana of philosophical 
dreamland. 


CHAPTEE III. 


THE OEIGIiV OF THE IMPRESSIONS. 

Admitting that the sensations, the feelings of pleasure 
and pain, and those of relation, are the primaiy ii-re- 
solvable states of consciousness, two further lines of in- 
vestigation present themselves. The one leads us to seek 
the origin of these “impressions ; ’’ the other, to inquire 
into the nature of the steps by which they become 
metamorphosed into those compound states of consciouts- 
ness, which so largely enter into our ordinary trains of 
thought. 

With respect to the origin of impressions of sensa- 
tion, Hume is not quite consistent with himself- In 
one place (I. p. 117) he says, that it is impossible to de- 
cide “whether they arise immediately from the object, 
or are produced by the creative power of the mind, or are 
derived from the Author of our being,’’ thereby implying 
that realism and idealism are equally probable hypothe- 
ses. But, in fact, after the demonstration by Descartes, 
that the immediate antecedents of sensations are changes 
in the nervous system, with which our feelings have 
no sort of resemblance, tbe hypothesis that sensations 
“arise immediately from the object ” was out of court ; 



OH. in.] ORIGIK OF THE IMPRESSIONS. 76 

and that Hume fully admitted the Cartesian doctrine is 
apparent when he says (1. p. 272) : — 

All our perceptions are dependent on our organs and the 
disposition of our nerves and animal spirits.” 

And again, though in relation to another question, he 
observes : — 

‘‘There are three different kinds of impressions conveyed 
by the senses. The first are those of the figure, bulk, motion, 
and solidity of bodies. The second those of colours, tastes, 
smells, sounds, heat, and cold. The third are the pains and 
pleasures that arise from the application of objects to our 
bodies, as by the cutting of our flesh with steel, and such like. 
Both philosophers and the vulgar suppose the first of these to 
have a distinct continued existence. The vulgar only regard 
the second as on the same footing. Both philosophers and 
the vulgar again esteem the third to be merely perceptions, 
and consequently interrupted and dependent beings. 

“Now ’tis evident that, whatever may be our philosophical 
opinion, colour, sounds, heat, and cold, as far as appears to 
the senses, exist after the same manner with motion and 
solidity ; and tluit tlie difference we make between them, in 
this respect, arises not from the mere perception. So strong 
is the prejudice for the distinct continued existence of the 
former qualities, that when the contrary opinion is advanced 
l)y modern pliilosophers, people imagine they can almost 
refute it from their reason and experience, and that their very 
senses contradict this philosophy. ’Tis also evident that 
colours, sounds, &c., are originally on the same footing with 
the pain that arises from steel, and pleasure that proceeds from 
a fire ; and that tlie difference betwixt them is founded neither 
on perception nor reason, but on the imagination. For as they 
are confessed to be, both of them, notlung but perceptions 
arising from the particular configurations and motions of the 
parts of body, wlierein possibly can their difference con- 
sist? Upon the whole, then, we may conclude that, as far as 


HUME. 


re 


[chap. 


the senses are judges, all perceptions are tlie same in the 
manner of their existence/’ — (1. p. 250, 251.) 


The last words of this passage are as much Berkeley’s 
as Hume’s. But, instead of following Berkeley in his de- 
ductions from the position thus laid down, Hume, as the 
preceding citation 'shows, fully adopted the conclusion 
to which all that we know of psychological physiology 
tends, that the origin of the elements of consciousness, 
no less than that of all its other states, is to be sought 
in bodily changes, the seat of which can only be 
placed in the brain. And, as Locke had already done 
with less effect, he states and refutes the arguments 
commonly brought against the possibility of a causal 
connexion between the modes of motion of the cere- 
bral substance and states of consciousness, with great 
clearness : — 


From these hypotheses concerning the sul)8tance and local 
coii^unction of our perceptions we may pass to another, which 
is more inielJigible than the former, and more important than 
the latter, viz. concerning the cause of our perceptions. 
Matter and motion, 'tis commonly said in the schools, however 
varied, are still matter and motion, and produce only a dif- 
ference in the position and situation of objects. Divide a 
body as often as you please, ’tis still body. Place it in any 
figure, nothing ever results but figure, or the relation of 
parts. Move it in any manner, you still find motion or a 
change of relation. ’Tis absurd to imagine that motion in 
a circle, for instance, should be nothing but merely motion in a 
circle ; while motion in another direction, as in an ellipse, 
should also be a passion or moral reflection ; that the shock- 
ing of two globular particles should become a sensation of 
meeting of the triangular ones should 
atford a pleasure. Now as these different shocks and varia- 
tions and mixtures are the only changes of which matter is 


HI.] 


ORIGm OF THE IMPRESSIONS. 


77 


susceptible, and as these never afford us any idea of thought 
or perception, ’tis concluded to be impossible, that thought 
can ever be caused by matter. 

“ Few have been able to withstand the seeming evidence of 
this argument ; and yet nothing in the world is more easy 
than to refute it. We need only reflect upon what has been 
proved at large, that we are never sensible of any connexion 
between causes and effects, and that His only by our expe- 
rience of their constant conjunction we can arrive at any 
knowledge of this relation. Now, as all objects which are 
not contrary are susceptible of a constant conjunction, and 
as no real objects are contrary, I have inferred from these 
principles (Part III. § 15) that, to consider the matter a _pnon, 
anything may produce anything, and that we shall never dis- 
cover a reason why any object may or may not be the cause of 
any other, however great, or however little, the resemblance 
may bo betwixt them. This evidently destroys the precedent 
reasoning, concerning the cause of thought or perception. 
For though there appear no manner of connection betwixt 
motion and tliouglit, the case is the same with all other causes 
and effects. Place one body of a pound weight on one end 
of a lever, and another body of tlie same weight on the other 
end ; you will never find in these bodies any principle of 
motion dependent on their distance from the centre, more than 
of thought and perception. If you pretend, therefore, to 
prove, a jmori, that such a position of bodies can never 
cause tliouglit, because, turn it which way you will, it is 
nothing but a position of bodies ; you must, by the same 
course of reasoning, conclude that it can never produce 
motion, since there is no more apparent connection in the one 
than in the other. But, as this latter conclusion is contrary 
to evident experience, and as His possible we may have a like 
experience in tlie operations of the mind, and may perceive 
a constant conjunction of thought and motion, you reason too 
hastily when, from the mere consideration of the ideas, you 
conclude that His impossible motion can ever produce thought, 
or a different position of parts give rise to a different passion 
or reflection, Nay, His not only possible we may have such 



5^8 HUME. [CHAP, 

an experience, but 'tis certain we have it ; since every one 
may perceive that the different dispositions of his body 
change his thoughts and sentiments. And should it be said* 
that this depends on the union of soul and body, I would 
answer, that we must separate the question concerning the 
substance of the mind from that concerning the cause of its 
thought ; and that, confining ourselves to the latter question, 
wefind, by the comparing their ideas, that thought and motion 
are different from each other and by experience, that they 
are constantly united ; which, being all the circumstances that 
enter into the idea of cause and effect, when applied to the 
operations of matter, we may certainly conclude that motion 
may be, and actually is, the cause of thought and perception.” 
—{L pp. 314—316.) 

The upshot of all this is, that the collection of per- 
ceptions,” which constitutes the mind, is really a system 
of effects, the causes of which are to be sought in ante- 
cedent changes of the matter of the brain, just as the 

collection of motions,” which we call flying, is a sys- 
tem of effects, the causes of which are to be sought in 
the modes of motion of the matter of the muscles of the 
wings. 

Hume, however, treats of this important topic only 
incidentally. He seems to have had very little acquaint- 
ance even with such physiology as was current in his 
time. At least, the only passage of his works, bearing 
on this subject, with which I am acquainted, contains 
nothing but a very odd version of the physiological 
views of Descartes : — 

When I received the relations of resemblance^ contiguity^ 
md. causation^ principles of union among ideas, without 
examining into their causes, ^twas more in prosecution of my 
first maxim, that we must in the end rest contented with ex- 
perience, than for want of something specious and plausible 
which I might have displayed on that subject. 'Twould 


in.] 


ORIGIN OF THE IMPRESSIONS. 


79 


have been easy to have made an imaginary dissection of the 
brain, and have shown why, upon our conception of any idea, 
the animal spirits run into all the contiguous traces and rouse 
up the other ideas that are related to it. But though I have 
neglected any advantage which I might have drawn from this 
topic in explaining the relations of ideas, I am afraid I must 
here have recourse to it, in order to account for the mistakes 
that arise from these relations. I shall therefore obsefve, that 
as the mind is endowed with the power of exciting any idea 
it pleases ; whenever it despatches the spirits into that region 
of the brain in which the idea is placed • these spirits always 
excite the idea, when they run precisely into the proper 
traces and rummage that cell which belongs to the idea. But 
as their motion is seldom direct, and naturally turns a little to 
the one side or to the other ; for tliis reason the animal spirits, 
falling into the contiguous traces, present other related ideas, 
in lieu of that which the mind desired at first to survey. 
Tliis change we are not always sensible of ; but continuing 
still the same train of thought, make use of the related idea 
which is presented to us and employ it in our reasonings, as 
if it were the same with what we demanded. This is the 
cause of many mistakes and sophisms in philosophy ; as will 
naturally be imagined, and as it would be easy to show, 
if there was occasion. (I. p. 88.) 

Perhaps it is as well for Hume’s fame that the occa- 
sion for further physiological speculations of this sort did 
not arise. But, while admitting the crudity of his notions 
and the strangeness of the language in which they are 
couched, it must in justice be remembered, that what are 
now known as the elements of the physiology of the ner- 
vous system were hardly dreamed of in the first half of 
the eighteenth century; and, as a further set off to Hume’s 
credit, it must be noted that he grasped the funda- 
mental truth, that the key to the comprehension of mental 
operations lies in the study of the molecular changes of 
the nervous apparatus by which they are originated. 


80 


HUME. 


[OIIAP. 


Surely no one who is cognisant of the facts of the 
case, nowadays, doubts that the roots of psychology lie 
in the physiology of the nervous system. What we 
call the operations of the mind are functions of the 
brain, and the materials of consciousness are products 
of cerebral activity. Cabanis may have made use of 
crude and misleading phraseology when he said that 
the brain secretes thought as the liver secretes bile ; 
but the conception which that much-abused phrase em- 
bodies is, nevertheless, far more consistent with fact 
than the popular notion that the mind is a metaphysical 
entity seated in the head, but as independent of the 
brain as a telegraph operator is of his instrument. 

It is hardly necessary to point out that the doctrine 
just laid down is what is commonly called materialism. 
In fact, I am not sure that the adjective crass,'’ which 
appears to have a special charm for rhetorical sciolists, 
would not be applied to it. But it is, nevertheless, true 
that the doctrine contains nothing inconsistent with 
the purest idealism. For, as Hume I'emarks (as indeed 
Descartes had observed long before) : — 


^'^Tis not our body we perceive when we regard our limbs 
and members, but certain impressions which enter by tiie 
senses ; so that the ascribing a real and corporeal existence to 
these^ impressions, or to their objects, is an act of the mind 
as difficult to explain as that [the external existence of 
objects] which we examine at present.”-— (I. p. 249.) 

Therefore, if we analyse the proposition that all men- 
tal phenomena are the effects or products of materijil 
phenomena, all that it means amounts to this* that 
whenever those states of consciousness which we call 
sensation, or emotion, ox* thought, come into existence, 


ORiam OF THE IMPRESSIONS. 


81 


HI.] 

complete investigation will show good reason for the be- 
lief that they are preceded by those other phenomena 
of consciousness to which we give the names of matter 
and motion. All material changes appear, in the long 
run, to be modes of motion; but our knowledge of 
motion is nothing but that of a change in the place and 
order of our sensations ; just as our knowledge of matter 
is restricted to those feelings of which we assume it to 
be the ca.use. 

It has already been pointed out, that Hume must have 
admitted, and in fact does admit, the possibility that 
the mind is a Leibnitzian monad, or a Eichtean world- 
generating Ego, the universe of things being merely the 
picture produced by the evolution of the phenomena of 
consciousness. For any demonstration that can be 
given to the contrary effect, the collection of percep- 
tions” which makes up our consciousness may be an 
orderly phantasmagoria generated by the Ego, unfolding 
its successive scenes on the background of the abyss of 
nothingness ; as a firework, which is but cunningly 
arranged combustibles, grows from a spaik into a corus- 
cation, and from a coruscation into figures, and words, 
and cascades of devouring fire, and then vanishes into the 
darkness of the night. 

On the other hand, it must no less readily be allowed 
that, for anything that can be proved to the conti'ary, 
there may be a real something which is the cause 
of all our impressions ; that sensations, though not 
likenesses, are symbols of that something; and that 
the part of that something, which we call the ner- 
vous system, is an apparatus for supplying us with a 
sort of algebra of fact, based on those symbols. A brain 
may be the machinery by which the material universe 

G 


82 


HUME. 


[chap. 


becomes conscious of itself. But it is important- to notice 
that, even if this conception of the universe and of the 
relation of consciousness to its other components should 
be true, we should, nevertheless, be still bound by the 
limits of thought, still unable to refute the arguments 
of pure idealism. The more completely the materialistic 
position is admitted, the easier is it to show that the 
idealistic position is unassailable, if the idealist con 
fines himself within the limits of positive knowledge. 

Hume deals with the questions whether all our ideas 
are derived from experienee, or whether, on the contrary, 
more or fewer of them are innate, which so much ex- 
ercised the mind of Locke, after a somewhat summary 
fashion, in a note to the second section of the Inquiry : — ■ 

“It is probable that no more was meant by those who 
denied innate ideas, than that all ideas, were copies of our 
impressions ; though it must be confessed that the terms which 
they employed w^ere not chosen with such caution, nor so 
exactly defined, as to prevent all mistakes about their doctrine. 
For what is meant by innate f If innate be equivalent to 
natural, then all the perceptions and ideas of the mind must 
be allowed to be innate or natural, in whatever sense we take 
the latter word, whether in opposition to what is uncommon, 
artificial, or miraculous. If by innate be meant contempo- 
rary with our birth, the dispute seems to be frivolous j nor is 
it worth while to inquire at what time thinking begins, 
whether before, at, or after our birth. Again, the word idea 
seems to he commonly taken in a very loose sense by Locke 
and others, as standing for any of our perceptions, our sensa- 
tions and passions, as well as thoughts. Now in this sense I 
should desire to know what can he meant by asserting that 
self-love, or resentment of injuries, or the passion between the 
sexes IS not innate ? 

But admitting these texmBy impressions and ideas, in the 


III.] 


OmQm OW THE IMPEESSIOHS. 


83 


sense above explained, and understanding by innate wbat is 
original or copied from no precedent perception, then we may 
assert that all our impressions are innate, and our ideas not 
innate/^ 

It would seem tbat Hume did not tbink it worth 
wbdle to acquire a comprehension of the real points 
at issue in the controversy which he thus carelessly 
dismisses. 

Yet Descartes has defined what he means by innate 
ideas with so much precision, that misconception ought 
to have been impossible. He says that, when he speaks 
of an idea being ‘^innate/' he means that it exists 
potentially in the mind, before it is actually called 
into existence by whatever is its appropriate exciting 
cause. 

I have never either thought or said,” he writes, ‘^that 
the mind has any need of innate ideas [idees naturelles] 
which are anything distinct from its faculty of thinking. 
But it is true that observing that there are certain thoughts 
which arise neither from external objects nor from the deter- 
mination of my will, but only from my faculty of thinking ; 
in order to mark the difference betw^een the ideas or the 
notions which are the forms of these thoughts, and to dis- 
tinguish them from the others, which may be called extra- 
neous or voluntary, I have called them innate. But I have used 
this term in the same sense as when vre say that generosity 
is innate in certain families ; or that certain maladies, such as 
gout or gravel, are innate in others ; not that children bom in 
these families are troubled with such diseases in their motheris 
womb ; but because they are bom with the disposition or the 
faculty of contracting them.’^ ^ 


1 Eemarques de Eene Descartes sur un certain placard imprime 
aiix Pays Bas vers la fin de Paim^e, 1647. — Descartes, (Euvres. 
Ed. Cousin, X. p. 71. 

G 2 




g4 HUME, [CHAP. 

His troublesome disciple, Eegius, having asserted 
that all our ideas come from observation or tradition, 
Descartes remarks : — 

“ So thoroughly erroneous is this assertion, that whoever 
nas a proper comprehension of the action of our senses, and 
understands precisely the nature of that which is transmitted 
Dy them to our thinking faculty, will rather affirm that no 
ideas of things, such as are formed in thought, are brought to 
iis by the senses, so that there is nothing in our ideas which 
is other than innate in the mind {naturel a Vespit), or in the 
faculty of thinking, if only certain circumstances are ex- 
cepted, which belong only to experience. For example, it is 
experience alone which causes us to judge that such and such 
ideas, now present in our minds, are related to certain things 
which are external to us ; not in truth, that they have been 
sent into our mind by these things, such as they are, by the 
organs of the senses ; but because these organs have trans- 
mitted something which has occasioned the mind, in virtue of 
its innate power, to form them at this time rather than at 
another. .... 

‘‘Hotliing passes from external objects to the soul except 
certain motions of matter (mouvemms corporals), but neither 
these motions, nor the figures which they produce, are con- 
ceived by us as they exist in the sensory organs, as I have, 
fully explained in my “Dioptrics”; whence it follows that 
even the ideas of motion and of figures are innate (natur- 
ellement an nous). And, d fortiori, the ideas of pain, of 
colours, of sounds, and of all similar things must be innate, 
in order that the mind may represent them to itself, on the 
occasion of certain motions of matter with which they have 
no resemblance.” 

Wboever denies what is, in fact, an inconceivable pro- 
position, that sensations pass, as such, from the external 
wmrld into the mind, must admit the conclusion here laid 
down by Descartes, that, strictly speaking, sensations, 




m.] OKIGIN OF THE IMPRESSIONS. 85 

and d, fortiori j all the other contents of the mind, are 
innate. Or, to state the matter in accordance with the 
views previously expounded, that they are products of 
the inherent properties of the thinking organ, in which 
they lie potentially, before they are called into existence 
by their appropriate causes. 

But if all the contents of the mind are innate, what 
is meant by experience 1 

It is the conversion, by unknown causes, of these 
innate potentialities into actual existences. ^ The oi'gan 
of thought, prior to experience, may be compared to an 
untouched piand, in which it may be properly said that 
music is innate, inasmuch as its mechanism contains, 
potentially, so many octaves of musical notes. The 
unknown cause of sensation which Descartes calls the 
‘‘30 ne sais quoi dans les objets” or ^‘choses telles 
qu’elles sont , ” and Kant the Noumenon or Ding an 
sich , is represented by the musician ; who, by touching 
the keys, converts the potentiality of the mechanism 
into actual sounds. A note so produced is the equivalent 
of a single experience. 

All the melodies and harmonies that proceed from the 
piano depend upon the action of the musician upon the 
keys. There is no internal mechanism which, when 
certain keys are struck, gives rise to an accompaniment 
of which the musician is only indirectly the catise. 
According to Descartes, however — and this is what is 
generally fixed upon as the essence of his doctrine 
of innate ideas- — the mind possesses such an internal 
mechanism, by which certain classes of thoughts are 
genei'ated, on the occasion of certain experiences. Such 
thoughts are innate, just as sensations are innate j they 
are not copies of sensations, any more than sensations 


HtJME. 


[("H'AP. 


Sf? 

are copies of motions ; they are invariably genera-tec! 
in the mind, when certain experiences arise in it, just as 
sensations are invariably generated when cex'tain bodily 
motions take place ; they are universal, inasmuch a,s they 
arise under the same conditions in all men ; they are 
necessary, because their genesis under these conditions is 
invariable. These innate thoughts are what Descartes 
tei'ms ^^verites’’ or truths: that is beliefs — and his 
notions respecting them are plainly set fortli in a passt'tge 
of the Frincipes. 

"Thus far I have discussed that which we know as things; 
it remains that I should speak of that which %ve know as 
truths. For example, when we think that it is impossible to 
make anything out of nothing, we do not imagine that this 
proposition is a thing which exists, or a property of something, 
but we take it for a certain eternal truth, wliicb has its seat 
in the mind {pemie), and is called a common notion or an 
axiom. Similarly, when we affirm that it is impossible that 
one and the same thing should exist and not exist at tlm 
same time ; that that which has been created should not have 
been created ; that he who thinks must exist wliile lie IJuiikB ; 
and a number of other like propositions j tlicse are only trutlis, 
and not things which exist outside our thoughts. And tliero 
is such a number of these that it would bo wearisome to 
enumerate, them : nor is it necessary to do so, beoanse we 
cannot fail to know them when the occasion of thinking about 
them presents itself, and we are not blinded by any pre- 
judicesy’ 

It would appear that Locke was not more fjMniliar 
with Descartes’ writings than Hume seems to have 
been ; for, viewed in relation to the passages just cited, 
the arguments adduced in his famous polemic against 
innate ideas are totally irrelevant. 

It has been shown that Hume practically, if not in 



m.] 


ORIGIN OF THE IMPRESSIONS. 


87 


so many words, admits the justice of Descartes’ asser- 
tion that, strictly speaking, sensations are innate ; that 
is to say, that they are the product of the reaction of 
the organ of the mind on the stimulus of an unknown 
cause,” which is Descartes’ je ne sais quoi.” There- 
fore, the difference between Descartes’ opinion and 
that of Hume resolves itself into this : Given sensa- 
tion-experiences, can all the contents of consciousness 
be derived from the collocation and metamorphosis of 
these experiences ? Or, .are new elements of conscious- 
ness, products of an innate potentiality distinct from 
sensibility, added to these h Hume affirms the former 
position, Descartes the latter. If the analysis of the 
phenomena of consciousness given in the preceding 
pages is correct, Hume is in error ; while the father of 
modern philosophy had a truer insight, though he over- 
stated the case. For want of sufficiently searching psy- 
chological investigations, Descartes was led to suppose 
that innumerable ideas, the evolution of which in the 
course of experience can be demonstrated, were direct 
or innate products of the thinking faculty. 

As has been alieady pointed out, it is the great merit 
of Kant that he started afresh on the track indicated 
by Descartes, and steadily upheld the doctrine of the 
existence of elements of consciousness, which are neither 
sense-expei'iences nor any modifications of them. We 
may demur to the expression that space and time are 
forxns of sensoiy intuition ; but it imperfectly represents 
the great fact that co existence and succession are mental 
phenomena not given in the mere sense experience.^ 

^ Wir konneii ims keinen Gegenstanddenken, ohne durch Kate- 
gorien ; wir koimen keinen gedachten Gegonatand orkennen, ohne 
durch Anschanungen, die jenen Begriffon entsprochen. Nun aind alle 


88 


HUME. 


[CH. III. 


nnsere Ansclianungen sinnlich, und diese Erkenntniss, so fern der 
Gegenstand derselben gegeben ist, ist empiriscli. Empiriselie 
Erkenntniss aber ist Erfahrung. Folglicli ist uns keine Erkennt- 
niss a priori moglicli, als lediglich von Gegenstanden moglicber 
Erfabrung.” 

**Aber diese Erkenntniss, die bloss anf Gegenstande der Erfahrang 
eingeschriinkt ist, ist darum niclit alle von der Erfahrung entlehnt, 
sondern vras sowohl die reinen Anschauungen, als die reinen Ver- 
standesbegriffe betrifft, so sind sie Elements der Erkenntniss die 
in uns a priori angetroffen warden. ” — Kritik der reineov VerminfL 
Elementarlehrei p. 135. 

Without a glossary explanatory of Kant’s terminology, this pas- 
sage would be hardly intelligible in a translation ,* hut it may be 
paraphrased thus : All knowledge is founded upon experiences of 
sensation, but it is not all derived from those experiences ; inas- 
mach as the impressions of relation (“reine Anscliauungen” ; 
“ reine Yerstandeshegriffe ”) have a potential or d priori existence 
in ns, and by their addition to sense-experiences, constitute 
knowledge. 


CHAPTEE IV. 


the classification and the nomenclature of mental 

OPERATIONS. 

If, as has been set forth in the preceding chapter, all 
mental states are effects of physical causes, it follo'vvs 
that what are called mental faculties and operations are, 
properly speaking, cerebral functions, allotted to definite, 
though not yet precisely assignable, parts of the brain. 

These functions appear to be reducible to three groups, 
namely : Sensation, Correlation, and Ideation. 

The organs of the functions of sensation and correla- 
tion are those portions of the cerebral substance, the 
molecular changes of which give rise to impressions 
of sensation and impressions of relation. 

The changes in the nervous matter which bring about 
the effects which we call its functions, follow upon some 
kind of stimulus, and rapidly reaching their maximum, 
as rapidly die away. The effect of the irritation of a 
nerve-fibre on the cerebral substance with which it is 
connected may be compared to the pulling of a long 
bell-wire. The impulse takes a little time to reach the 
bell ; the bell rings and then becomes quiescent, until 


90 


HUME. 


[chap. 


another pull is given. So, in the brain, every sensation 
is the ring of a cerebral particle, the effect of a 
momentary impnlse sent along a nerve-fibre. 

If there were a complete likeness between the two 
terms of this very rough and ready comparison, it is 
obvious that there could be no such thing as memory. 
A bell records no audible sign of having been rung five 
minutes ago, and the activity of a sensigenous cerebral 
particle might similarly leave no trace. Under these 
circumstances, again, it would seem that the only im- 
pressions of relation which could arise would be those 
of co-existence and of similaiity. For succession im- 
plies memory of an antecedent state. ^ 

But the special peculiarity of the cerebral apparatus 
is, that any given function which has once been per-» 
formed is very easily set a-going again, by causes more 
or less different from those to which it owed its origin. 
Of the mechanism of this generation of images of im- 
pressions or ideas (in Hume’s sense), which may be 
termed Ideation^ we know nothing at present, though 
the fact and its results are familiar enough. 

During our waking, and many of our sleeping, hours, 
in fact, the function of ideation is in continual, if not 
continuous, activity. Trains of thought, as we call 
them, succeed one another without intermission, even 
when the starting of new trains by fresh sense-impres- 
sions is as far as possible prevented. The rapidity and 
the intensity of this ideational process are obviously 
dependent upon physiological conditions. The widest 


J It IS not worth while, for the present purpose, to consider 
whether, as ail nervons action occupies a sensible time, the dura- 
tion of one impression might not overlap that of the impression 

which follom It, m the case supposed. 


IV,] NOMEKCLATUEE OF MENTAL OPERATIONS. 91 


differences in these respects are constitutional in men 
of different temperaments ; and are observable in one- 
self, under varying conditions of hunger and repletion, 
fatigue and freshness, calmness and emotional excite- 
ment. The influence of diet on dreams ; of stimulants 
upon the fulness and the velocity of tha stream of 
thought ; the delirious phantasms generated by disease, 
by hashish, or by alcohol ; will occur to every one* as 
examples of the marvellous sensitiveness of the appara- 
tus of ideation to purely physical influences. 

The succession of mental states in ideation is not 
fortuitous, but follows the law of association, which may- 
be stated thus : that every idea tends to be followed by 
some other idea which is associated with the first, or its 
impression, by a relation of succession, of contiguity, or 
of likeness. 

Thus the idea of the word horse just now presented 
itself to my mind, and was followed in quick succession 
by the ideas of four legs, hoofs, teeth, rider, saddle, 
racing, cheating j all of which ideas are connected in 
my experience with the impression, or the idea, of a 
horse and with one anothei', by the relations of con- 
tiguity and succession. No great attention to what 
passes in the mind is needful to prove that our trains of 
thought are neither to be arrested, nor even permanently 
controlled, by our desires or emotions. Nevertheless they 
are lai'gely influenced by them. In the presence of a strong 
desire, or emotion, the stream of thought no longer flows 
on in a straight course, but seems, as it were, to eddy 
X'otmd the idea of that which is the object of the 
emotion. Every one who has “ eaten his bread in 
sorrow” knows how strangely the current of ideas 
whirls about the conception of the object of regret or 


92 


HUME. 






remorse as a centre ; every now and then, indeed, break- 
ing away into the new tracks suggested by passing 
associations, but still returning to the central thought. 
Few can have been so happy as to have escaped the 
social bore, whose pet notion is certain to crop up what- 
ever topic is started ; while the fixed idea of the mono- 
maniac is but the extreme form of the same phenomenon. 

And as, on the one hand, it is so hard to drive away the 
thought we would fain be rid of ; so, upon the other, 
the ^pleasant imaginations which wo would so gladly 
retain are, sooner or later, jostled away by the crowd of 
claimants for birth into the world of consciousness; 
■^ich hover as a sort of psychical possibilities, or inverse 
ghosts, the bodily presentments of spiritual phonoinena 
to be, in the limbo of the brain. In that form of desire 
which is called “attention,” the train of thought, held 
ast, or a time, in the desired direction, sooms ever 
striving to get on to another line -and the junction.s and 
Sidings are so multitudinous ! 


^e constituents of ti-ains of ideas may bo grouped in 
vanous ways. ^ 

Hume says : — 


La and tL i? it_agam makes its appearance there as an 
Idea, and this it may do m two different ways : citlior when 

fost retains a considerable degree of its 

S Z J’ “ intermediate between an i„i! 

Ld is a vivacity, 

-I the 


And he considers that the only 
ideas of imagination and those of 


difference between 
memory, except the 



IV.] KOMENCLATUBE OF MENTAL OPERATIONa 


m 


supenoi' vivacity of the latter, lies in the fact that 
those of memoi'y preserve the original order of the 
impressions from which they are derived, while the ima- 
gination ‘4s free to transpose and change its ideas/' 

The latter statement of the diSerence between 
memory and imagination is less open to cavil than the 
former, though by no means unassailable. 

The special characteristic of a memory surely is not 
its vividness ; but that it is a complex idea, in which 
the idea of that which is remembered is related by 
co-existence with other ideas, and by antecedence with 
present impressions. 

If I say I remember A. B., the chance acquaintance 
of ten years ago, it is not because my idea of A. B. is 
very vivid — on the contrary, it is extremely faint — but 
because that idea is associated with ideas of impressions 
co-existent with those which I call A. B.; and that all 
these are at the end of the long seines of ideas, which re- 
present that much past time. In truth I have a much 
more vivid idea of Mr. Pickwick, or of Colonel Newcome, 
than I have of A. B.; but, associated with the ideas of 
these persons, I have no idea of their having ever been 
derived from the world of impressions ; and so they are 
relegated to the world of imagination. On the other 
hand, the characteristic of an imagination may properly 
be said to lie not in its intensity, but in the fact that, as 
Hume puts it, “ the arrangement,” or the relations, of 
the ideas are different from those in which the im- 
pressions, whence these ideas are derived, occurred ; or 
in other words, that the thing imagined has not hap- 
pened. In popular usage, however, imagination is fi’e- 
quently employed for simple memory — “ In imagination 
I was back in the old times.” 






94 


HUME. 


[CHA.P. 


It is a curious omission on Hume’s part that, while 
tims dwelling on two classes of ideas, Mmiories and 
Imaginations^ he has not, at the same time, taken notice 
of a third group, of no small importance, which are 
as different from imaginations as memories are ; though, 
like the latter, they are often confounded with pure 
imaginations in general speech. These are the ideas 
of expectation, or as they may be called for the sake 
of brevity. Expectations ; which differ from simple imagi- 
nations in being associated with the idea of the exis- 
tence of corresponding impressions, in the future, just 
as memories contain the idea of the existence of the cor- 
responding impressions in the past. 

dhe ideas belonging to two of the three groups enume- 
rated : namely, memories and expectations, present 
some features, of particular intei’est. And first, with 
respect to memories. 

In Hume’s words, all simple ideas are copies of simple 
impx'essions. The idea of a single sensation is a faint, 
but accurate, image of that sensation j the idea of a rela- 
tion is a reproduction of the feeling of co-existence, of 
succession, or of similarity. But, when complex impres- 
sions or complex ideas are reproduced as memories, it is 
probable that the copies never give all the details of the 
orig-inals with perfect accuracy, and it is certain that 
they rarely do so. Ho one possesses a memory so 
good, that if he has only once observed a natural object, 
a second inspection does not show him something that 
he bas forgotten. Almost all, if not all, our memories 
are therefore sketches, rather than portraits, of the 
originals— the salient features are obvious, while the 
subordinate characters are obscure or unrepresented. 

ISTow, when several complex impres^^^ 


ly.] NOMENCLATUBE OF MENTAL OPEBATIONS. 95 

mox'e or less different from one anotiiei' — let us say that 
out of ten impressions in each, six are the same in all, 
and four are different from all the rest — are successively 
presented to the mind, it is easy to see what must be 
the nature of the result. The repetition of the six 
similar impressions will strengthen the six correspond- 
ing elements of the complex idea, which will therefore 
acquii'e greater vividness; while the four differing 
impressions^ of each will not only acquire no greater 
strength than they had at first, hut, in accordance with 
the law of association, they will all tend to appear at 
once, and will thus neutralise one anothex'. 

This mental operation may be rendered comprehensible 
by considexlng what takes place in the formation of com- 
pound photographs — when the images of the faces of 
six sittei's, for example, are each received on the same 
photogx’aphic plate, for a sixth of the time requisite to 
take one portrait. The final result is that all those 
points in which the six faces agree are bx'ought out 
strongly, while all those in which they differ are left 
vague ; and thus what may be termed a generic portrait 
of the six, in contradistinction to a specific portrait of 
any one, is produC(3d. 

Thus our ideas of single complex impressions are in- 
complete iix one way, and those of numerous, more or less 
similar, complex impressions are incomplete in another 
way ; that is to say, they are generic, not S27ecifhc. And 
hence it follows, that our ideas of the impressions in 
qtxostion are not, in the strict sense of the word, copies 
of those impi'essions ; while, at the same time, they may 
exist in the mind independently of language. 

The generic ideas which are foi^med from several 
sixnilax', but not identical, complex expeidences are what 


96 


HUME. 


[chap. 


are commonlj called abstract or general ideas ; and 
Berkeley endeavoured to prove that all general ideas 
are nothing but particular ideas annexed to a certain 
term, which gives them a more extensive signification, 
and makes them recall, upon occasion, other individuals 
which are similar to them. Hume says that he regards 
this as one of the greatest and the most valuable dis- 
coveries that has been made of late years in the republic 
of letters,’’ and endeavours to confirm it in such a 
manner that it shall be ^‘put beyond all doubt and 
controversy.” 

I may venture to express a doubt whether he has 
succeeded in his object ; but the subject is an abstruse 
one ; and I must content myself with the remark, that 
though Berkeley’s view appears to be largely applicable to 
such general ideas as are formed after language has been 
acquired, and to all the more abstract sort of conceptions, 
yet that general ideas of sensible objects may nevertheless 
be produced in the way indicated, and may exist inde- 
pendently of language. In dreams, one sees houses, 
trees and other objects, which are perfectly recognisable 
as such, but which remind one of the actual objects as 
seen ^^out of the corner of the eye,” or of the pictures 
thrown by a badly-focussed magic lantern. A man 
addresses us who is like a figure seen by twilight j or we 
travel through countries where every feature of the 
scenery is vague ; the outlines of the hills are ill-marked, 
and the rivers have no defined banks. They are, in 
short, generic ideas of many past impressions of men> 
hills, and rivers. An anatomist who occupies himself 
intently with the examination of several specimens of 
some new kind of animal, in course of time acquires so 
vivid a conception of its form and structure, that the 


’tv.] FOMEKCLATUBE OE MENTAL OPERATIONS. 97 


idea may take visible shape and become a sort of 
waking dream. But the figure which thus presents 
itself is generic, not specific. It is no copy of any one 
specimen, but, more or less, a mean of the series ; and 
there seems no reason to doubt that the minds of 
children before they learn to speak, and of deaf mutes, 
are peopled with similarly generated generic ideas of 
sensible objects. 


It has been seen that a memoiy is a complex idea 
made up of at least two constituents. In the first place 
there is the idea of an object ; and secondly, there is 
the idea of the relation of antecedence between that 
object and some present objects. 

To say that one has a recollection of a given event and 
to express the belief that it happened, are two ways of 
giving an account of one and the same mental fact. But 
the former mode of stating the fact of memory is pre- 
ferable, at present, because it certainly does not pre- 
suppose the existence of language in the mind of the 
I'ememberer ; while it may be said that the latter does. 
It is perfectly possible to have the idea of an event A, 
and of the events B, C, D, which came between it and 
the present state E, 8-s mere mental pictures. It is hardly 
to be doubted that children have very distinct memories 
long before they can speak ; and we believe that such is 
the case because they act upon their memories. But, if 
they act upon their memories, they to all intents and 
purposes believe their memories. In other words, though, 
being devoid of language, the child cannot fi'ame a 
proposition expressive of belief ; cannot say “ sugar-plum 
was sweet; ” yet the psychical operation of which that 

H 



HUME. 


[chap. 


proposition is merely the verbal expression, is perfectly 
elected. The experience of the co-existence of sweet- 
ness with sugar has produced a state of mind which 
bears the same relation to a verbal proposition, as the 
natural disposition to produce a given idea, assumed 
to exist by Descartes as an “ innate idea ” would bear 
to that idea put into words. 

The fact that the beliefs of memory precede the use 
of language, and therefore are oiuginally purely instinc- 
tive, and independent of any rational justification, 
should have been of great importance to Hume, from its 
bearing upon his theory of causation ; and it is cxirious 
that he has not adverted to it, but always takes the 
trustworthiness of memories for granted. It may be 
worth while briefly to make good the omission. 

That I was in pain, yesterday, is as certain to me as 
any matter of fact can be ; by no effort of the imagina- 
tion is it possible for me really to entertain the contraiy 
belief. At the same time, I am bound to admit, that tlie 
whole foundation for my belief is the fact, that the idea 
of pain is indissolubly associated in my mind with the 
idea of that much past time. Any one who will bo at 
the trouble may provide himself with hundreds of 
examples to the same effect. 

This and similar observations are important under 
another aspect. They prove that the idea of even a 
single strong impression may be so powerfully asso- 
ciated with that of a certain time, as to originate a 
belief of which the contrary is inconceivable, and which 
may therefore be properly said to he necessary. A 
single weak, or moderately strong, impression may not 
be represented by any memory. But this defect of 
weak experiences may he compensated by their repeti- 



IV.] ITOMEKOLATURE OF MENTAL OPERATIONS. 99 


tion ; and what Humo means by custom ’^ or habit 
is simply the repetition of experiences. 

Wherever the repetition of any particular act or operation 
produces a propensity to renew the same act or operation, 
without being impelled by any reasoning or process of the 
understanding, we always say that this propensity is the 
efEect of Custom, By employing that word, we pretend not to 
have given the ultimate reason of such a propensity. We 
only point out a principle of human nature which is universally 
acknowledged, and which is well known by its effects,” — 
(IV. p. 52.) 

It has been shown that an expectation is a complex idea 
which, like a memory, is made up of two constituents. 
The one is the idea of an object, the other is the idea of a 
relation of sequence between that object and some present 
object I and the reasoning which applied to memories ap- 
plies to expectations. To have an expectation^ of a given 
event, and to believe that it will happen, are only two 
modes of stating the same fact. Again, just in the 
same way as we call a memory, put into words, a belief, 
so we give the same name to an expectation in like cloth- 
ing. And the fact already cited, that a child before it 
can speak acts upon its memories, is good evidence that it 
forms expectations. The infant who knows the meaning 
neither of ‘Vsugarjplum ” nor of sweet,” nevertheless 
is in full possession of that complex idea, which, when 
he has learned to employ language, will take the form 
of the vei'bal proposition, ‘‘A sugar-plum will be 
sweet.” 

^ Wc give no name to faint memories ; but expectations of like 
character play so largi? a part in human affairs, that they, together 
witli the associated emotions of pleasure and pain, are distinguished 
as “hopes” or “fears.” 



100 


HUME. 


[CHAP, 


Thus, beliefs of expectation, oi' at any rate their 
potentialities, are, as much as those of memory, ante- 
cedent to speech, and are as incapable of justification 
by any logical process. In fact, expectations are but 
memories inverted. The association which is the foun- 
dation of expectation must exist as a memory before it 
can play its part. As Hume says, — 

“ . . . it is certain we here advance a very intelligible pro- 
position at least, if not a true one, when we assert that after 
the constant conjunction of two objects, heat and flame, for 
instance, weight and solidity, we are determined by custom 
alone to expect the one from the appearance of the other. 
This hypothesis seems even the only one which explains the 
difficulty why we draw from a thousand instances, aii inference 
which we are not able to draw from one instance, that is 
in no respect difEerent from them.” . , . 

'' Custom, then, is the great guide of human life. It is that 
principle alone which renders our experience useful to us, and 
makes us expect, for the future, a similar train of events with , 
those which have appeared in the past.” . , , 

''All belief of ma.tter-of-fact or real existence is derived 
merely from some object present to the memory or senses, and 
a customary conjunction between that and some other object ; 
or in other words, having found, in many instances, that any 
two kinds of objects, flame and heat, snow and cold, have 
always been conjoined together, if flame or snow be presented 
anew to the senses, the mind is carried by custom to expect 
heat or cold, and to heli&oe that such a quality does exist and 
will discover itself upon a nearer approach. This belief is tlie 
necessary result of placing the mind in such circumstances. 

It is an operation of the soul, when we are so situated, as 
unavoidable as to feel the passion of love, when wm receive 
benefits, or hatred, when we meet with injuries. All tliese 
operations are a species of natural instincts, which no reason- 
ing or process of the thought and understanding is able either 
to produce or to prevent.”— (IV, pp. 52 56.) 


IV.] NOMENCLATURE OF MENTAL OPERATIONS. 101 

The only comment that appears needful her© is, that 
Hume has attached somewhat too exclusive a weight to 
that repetition of experiences to which alone the term 
custom ” can be properly applied. The proverb says 
that “a burnt child dreads the fii'e*'; and any one 
who will make the experiment will find, that on© burning 
is quit© sufficient to establish an indissoluble belief that 
contact with fire and pain go together. 

As a sort of inverted memoiy, expectation follows the 
same laws ; hence, while a belief of expectation is, in 
most cases, as Hume truly says, established by custom, or 
the repetition of weak impressions, it may quite well be 
based upon a single strong experience. In the absence 
of language, a specific memory cannot be strengthened 
by repetition. It is obvious that that which has hap- 
pened cannot happen again, with the same collateral 
associations of co-existence and succession. But, 
memories of the co-existence and succession of impresr 
sions are capable of being indefinitely strengthened by 
the recurrence of similar impressions, in the same order, 
even though the collateral associations are totally dif- 
ferent ; in fact, the ideas of these impressions become 
generic. 

If I recollect that a piece of ice was cold yesterday, 
nothing can strengthen the recollection of that parti- 
cular fact ; on the contrary, it may grow weaker, in the 
absence of any record of it. But if I touch ice to-day 
and again find it cold, the association is repeated, and 
the memory of it becomes stronger. And, by this very 
simple process of repetition of experience, it has become 
utterly impossible for us to think of having handled ice 
without thinking of its coldness. But, that which is, 
under the on© aspect, the strengthening of a memory, is, 


102 


HUME. 


[CH. rv. 


under the other, the intensification of an expectation. 
Not only can we not think of hawing touched ice, with- 
out feeling cold, but we cannot think of touching ice, 
in the future, without expecting to feel cold. An 
expectation so strong that it cannot be changed, or 
abolished, may thus be generated out of repeated ex- 
periences. And it is important to note that such 
expectations may he formed quite unconsciously. In 
my dressing-room, a certain can is usually kept full of 
water, and I am in the habit of lifting it to pour out 
water for washing. Sometimes the servant has for- 
gotten to fill it, and then I find that, when I take hold 
of the handle, the can goes up with a jerk. Long 
association has, in fact, led me to expect the can to have 
a considerable weight ; and, quite unawares, my mus- 
cular effort is adjusted to the expectation. 

The process of strengthening generic memories of 
succession, and, at the same time, intensifying expec- 
tations of succession, is what is commonly called mri- 
fication. The impression B has frequently been observed 
to follow the impression A. The association thus pro- 
duced is represented as the memory, A B. When 
the impression A appears again, the idea of B follows, 
associated with that of the immediate appearance of 
the impression B, If the impression B does appear, 
the expectation is said to be verified j while the 
memory A B is strengthened, and gives rise in turn 
to a stronger expectation. And repeated verification 
may render that expectation so strong that its non- 
verification is inconceivable. 


CHAPTEE Y. 


THE MENTAL PHENOMENA OF ANIMALS. 

In the com’se of the preceding chapters, attention has 
been more than once called to the fact, that the elements 
of consciousness and the operations of the mental 
faculties, tinder discussion, exist independentlj of and 
antecedent to, the existence of language. 

If any weight is to be attached to arguments from 
analogy, there is overwhelming evidence in favour of 
the belief that children, before they can speak, and deaf 
mutes, possess the feelings to which those who have 
acquired the faculty of speech apply the name of sen- 
sations ; that they have the feelings of relation ; that 
trains of ideas pass through their minds ; that generic 
ideas are formed from specific ones ; and, that among 
these, ideas of memory and expectation occupy a most 
important place, inasmuch as, in their quality of 
potential beliefs, they furnish the grounds of action. 
This conclusion, in truth, is one of those which, though 
they cannot be demonstrated, are never doubted ; and, 
since it is highly probable and cannot be disproved, we 
are quite safe in accepting it, as, at any rate, a good 
working hypothesis. 

But, if we accept it, we must extend it to a much 


104 


HUME. 


[CHAF. 


wider assemblage of living beings. Wiiatever cogency 
is attached to the arguments in favour of the occxirrence 
of all the fundamental phenomena of mind in young 
children and deaf mutes, an equal force must be allowed 
to appertain to those which may be adduced to prove 
that the higher animals have minds. We must admit 
that Hume does not express himself too strongly when 
he says — 

‘^no {truth appears to me more evident, than that the beasts 
are endowed with thought and reason as well as men. The 
arguments are in this case so obvious, that they never escape 
the most stupid and ignorant.^’ — (I. p. 232.) 

In fact, this is one of the few cases in which the 
conviction which forces itself upon the sttipid and the 
ignorant, is fortified by the reasonings of the intelligent, 
and has its foundation deepened by every incrojise of 
knowledge. It is not merely that the observation of the 
actions of animals almost irresistibly suggests the attri- 
bution to them of mental states, such as those which ac- 
company corresponding actions in men. The minute 
comparison which has been instituted, by anatoxnists and 
physiologists between the organs which we know to 
constitute the apparatus of thought in man, and tlie 
corresponding organs in brutes, has demonstrated the 
existence of the closest similarity between the two, not 
only in structure, as far as the microscope will carry us, 
hut in function, as far as functions are determinable by 
experiment. There is no question in tlie mind of any 
one acquainted with the facts that, so far as ol>.sei’vation 
and experiment can take us, the stiucture and the 
Junctions of the nervous system are fundamentally 
same in an ape, or in a dog, and in a man. And the sug- 



I 

I. T.] MENTAL PHENOMENA OF ANIMALS. 105 

|i gestion that W 0 must stop at the exact point at which direct 

I proof fails us ; and refuse to believe that the similarity 

! which extends so far stretches yet further, is no better 

J than a quibble. Hobinson Crusoe did not feel bound to 

conclude, from the single human footprint which he saw 
in the sand, that the maker of the impression had only 
one leg. 

i Structure for structure, down to the minutest micro- 

scopical details, the eye, the ear, the olfactory organs, 
the nerves, the spinal cord, the brain of an ape, or of a dog, 
cori’espond with the same organs in the human subject. 
Cut a nerve, and the evidence of paralysis, or of insensi- 
bility, is the same in the two cases ; apply pressure to 
the brain, or administer a narcotic, and the signs of 
intelligence disappear in the one as in the other. What- 
ever reason we have for believing that the changes 
which take place in the normal cerebral substance of 
I man give rise to states of consciousness, the same I'eason 
exists for the belief that the modes of motion of the 
^ cerebral substance of an ape, or of a dog, produce like 
effects. 

A dog acts as if he had all the different kinds of 
impressions of sensation of which each of us is cogni- 
i sant. Moreover, he governs his movements exactly as 
I if he had the feelings of distance, form, succession, 
likeness, and unlikeness, with which we are familiar, or 
as if the impressions of relation were generated in his 
mind as they are in our own. Sleeping dogs frequently 
^ appear to dream. If they do, it must be admitted that 
i j ideirbion goes on in them while they are asleep ; and, in 

II that case, there is no reason to doubt that they are 

1| conscious of trains of ideas in their waking state. 

]j Further, that dogs, if they possess ideas at all, have 



106 


HUME. 


[chap. 


memories and expectations, and those potential beliefs 
of wMch these states are the foundation, can hardly be 
doubted by any one ■who is conversant with their ways. 
Finally, there would appear to be no valid argument 
against the supposition that dogs form generic ideas of 
sensible objects. One of the most curious peculiarities 
of the dog mind is its inherent snobbishness, shown by 
the regard paid to external respectability. The dog 
■who barks furiously at a beggar will let a well-dressed 
man pass him without opposition. Has he not then a 

generic idea of rags and dirt associated with the 
idea of aversion, and that of sleek broadcloth associated 
with the idea of liking ? 

In short, it seems hard to assign any good reason for 
denying to the higher animals any mental state, or 
process, in which the employment of the vocal or visual 
symbols of which language is composed is not involved ; 
and comparative psychology confirms the position in 
relation to the rest of the animal world assigned to -man 
by comparative anatomy. As comparative anatomy is 
easily able to show that, physically, man is but the last 
term of a long series of forms, which lead, by slow 
gradations, from the highest mammal to the almost 
formless speck of living protoplasm, which lies on the 
shadowy boundary between animal and vegetable life ; 
so, comparative psychology, though but a young science, 
and far short of her elder sisteFs growth, points to the 
same conclusion. 

In the absence of a distinct nervous system, we have 
no right to look for its product, consciousness ; and, even 
in those forms of animal life in which the nervous 
apparatus has reached no higher degree of development, 
than that esHbited by the system of the spinal cord 


y.] 


MENTAL PHENOMENA OF ANIMALS. 


107 


and the foundation of the brain in onrselves, the argu- 
ment from analogy leaves the assumption of the existence 
of any form of consciousness unsupported. With the 
super-addition of a nervous apparatus corresponding 
with the cerebrum in ourselves, it is allowable to 
suppose the appearance of the simplest states of con- 
sciousness, or the sensations ; and it is conceivable that 
these may at first exist, without any power of I'eproduc- 
ing them, as memories; and, consequently, without 
ideation. Still higher, an apparatus of correlation may 
be superadded, until, as all these organs become more 
developed, the condition of the highest speechless 
animals is attained. 

It is a remarkable example of Hume’s sagacity that 
he perceived the importance of a branch of science 
which, even now, can hardly be said to exist ; and that, 
in a remarkable passage, he sketches in bold outlines the 
chief features of comparative psychology. 

“ . . . any theory, by which wo explain the operations of the 
understanding, or the origin and connexion of the passions 
in man, will ac(piire additional authority if we find that the 
same theory is requisite to explain the same phenomena in 
all otiicr animals. Wo shall make trial of this with regard to 
tli(3 hypothesis by which \vc liavo, in the foregoing discourse, 
endeavoured to account for all experimental reasonings ; and 
it is hoped that this new point of view will serve to confirm 
all our fortnor ol)servationB. 

‘‘AVa’/, it seems evident that animals, as well as men, learn 
many things from experience, and infer that the same events 
will always follow froni the same causes. By this principle 
th(‘y heijoine acupiaiMted with the more obvious properties 
of t;.xt«n'nai objects, and grail ually, from tlieir birtli, treasure 
np a knowledge of tlic nature of fire, water, earth, stones, 
Iieights, deptlis, &c.,and of the effects which result from their 


108 


HUME. 




operation. The ignorance and inexperience of the yonng are 
here plainly distinguishable from the cunning and sagacity of 
the old, who have learned, by long observation, to avoid wlita.t 
hurt them, and pursue what gave ease or pleasure. A horse 
that has been accustomed tothe lield, becomes acquainted with 
the proper height which he can leap, and will never attempt 
what exceeds his force and ability. An old greyhound will trust 
the more fatiguing part of the chase to the younger, and will 
place himself so as to meet the hare in lier doubles ; nor are 
the conjectures which he forms on this occasion founded on 
anything but his observation and experience. 

*‘This is still more evident from tlie effects of discipline 
and education on animals, who, by the proper appli<.m- 
tion of rewards and punishments, may be tauglit any course 
of action, the most contrary to their natural instincts and pro- 
pensities. Is it not experience which renders a dog appre- 
hensive of pain when you menace him, or lift up t!ic whip to 
heat him ? Is it not even experience which makes luin answei 
to his name, and infer from such an arbitrary sound that you 
mean him rather than any of his fellows, and intend to (;all 
him, when yon pronounce it in a certain manner and with a 
certain tone and accent ? 

In all these cases we may obsei-ve that the animal infers 
some fact beyond what immediately strikes his senses ; and 
that this inference is altogether founded on past experience, 
while the creature expects from the present objccit tlie same 
consequences which it has always found in its ol)Sorvatic)n 
to result from similar objects. 

Secondly^ it is impossible that this inference of the animal 
can be founded on any process of argument or reasoning, by 
which he concludes that like events xnuBt follow like objects, 
and that the course of nature will always be regular in its 
operations. For if there be in reality any argumentis of this 
nature they surely lie too abstruse for the ol)sorvation of snob 
imperfect understandings ; since it may well employ the utmost 
care and attention of a philosophic genius to discover and 
observe them. Animals therefore are not guided in these 
inferences by reasoning j neither are children ; lieithor are 


mental phenomena of animals. 


109 


V.] 

the geneiality of raanldnd in their ordinary actions and con- 
clusions ; neither are philosophers themselves, who, in all the 
active parts of life, are in the main the same as the vulgar, and 
are governed by the same maxims. Nature must have provided 
some other principle, of more ready and more general use 
and application ; nor can an operation of such immense 
consequence in life as that of inferring effects from causes, 
he trusted to the uncertain process of reasoning and argumenta- 
tion, Were this doubtful with regard to men, it seems to 
admit of no question with regard to the brute creation ; and 
the conclusion being once firmly established in the one, we 
have a strong presumption, from all the rules of analogy, that 
it ought to be universally admitted, without any exception or 
reserve. It is custom alone which engages animals, from 
every object that strikes their senses, to infer its usual attend- 
ant, and carries their imagination from the appearance of 
the one to conceive the other, in that particular manner which 
wo denominate ‘bdief. No other explication can he given of 
this operation in all the higher as well as lower classes of sen- 
sitive beings which fall under our notice and observation.” 
—(IV. pp. 122—4.) 


It will he observed that Hume appears to contrast 
the ‘‘inference of the animal” with the “process of 
argument or reasoning in man.” But it would he a 
complete misapprehension of his intention, if we were 
to suppose, that he thereby means to imply that there 
is any real difference between the two processes. The 
“ inference of the animal ” is a potential belief of 
expectation i the process of argument, or reasoning, in 
man is based upon potential beliefs of expectation, which 
are formed in the man exactly in the same way as in 
the animal. But, in men endowed with speech, the 
mental state which constitutes the potential belief is 
represented by a verbal proposition, and thus becomes 
what all the world recognises as a belief. The fallacy 


no 


HTJME. 


[chap. 


whicii Hume combats is, that the proposition, or verbal 
representative of a belief, has come to be regarded as 
a reality, instead of as the mere symbol wliicli it 
really is ; and that reasoning, or logic, which deals with 
nothing but propositions, is supposed to be necessary 
in order to validate the natural fact symbolised l)y tliose 
propositions. It is a fallacy similar to that of supposing 
that money is the foundation of wealth, whereas it is 
only the wholly unessential symbol of property. 

In the passage which immediately follows that just 
quoted, Hume makes admissions which might be turned 
to serious account against some of his own doctrines. 

But though animals learn many parts of tlicur knowledge 
from observation, there are also many parts of it wliicli tliey 
derive from the original hand of Nature, wliich mtjeh exceed 
the share of capacity they possess on ordinary occtasious, and 
in which they improve, little or nothing, by the longest 
practice and experience. These we denominate Instinct’s, and 
are so apt to admire as something very extraordinary find in- 
explicable by all the disquisitions of hnman tuiderstandiiig. 
But our wonder will perhaps cease or diminish when we con- 
sider that the experimental reasoning itself, which we possesB 
in common with beasts, and on winch the whole conduct of 
life depends, is nothing but a species of instinct or mechariical 
power, that acts in us unknown to otirselves, and In its chief 
operations is not directed by any such relations or comparison 
of ideas as are the proper objects of our intelleetual fatmlties. 

^'Though the instinct be different, yet still it is an instinct 
which teaches a man to avoid the fire, as mucli as tluit wliicli 
teaches a bird,. with such exactness, the art of incubation 
and the whole economy and order of its nursery.’^ — (IV. pp* 
125 , 126 .) 

The parallel here drawn between the avoidance of a 
hre '’ by a man and the incubatory instinct of a bird 




MEITTAL PHENOMENA OP A^TIMALS. 


Ill 


is inexact. The man avoids fire when he has had 
experience of the pain produced by burning ; but the 
bird incubates the first time it lays eggs, and therefore 
I before it has had any experience of incubation. Tor 

I the comparison to be admissible, it would be necessary 

I that a man should avoid fire the first time he saw it, 

I which is notoriously not the case. 

I The term ‘'instinct is very vague and ill-defined. 

I It is commonly employed to denote any action, or even 
feeling, which is not dictated by conscious reasoning, 

I whether ifc is, oris not, the result of piwious experience. 

I It is instinct ’ ' which leads a chicken just hatched to pick 

I up a grain of corn ; parental love is said to be instin- 
I tive j the drowning man who catches at a straw does it 
instinctively ” ; and the hand that accidentally touches 
something hot is drawn back by instinct.” Thus in- 
stinct’’ is made to cover everything from a simple reflex 
movement, in which the organ of consciousness need 
I not be at all implicated, up to a complex combina- 

tion of acts directed towards a definite end and accom- 
i panied by intense consciousness. 

But this loose employment of the term instinct” 

^ really accords with the nature of the thing ; for it is 
wholly impossible to draw any line of demarcation 
f between reflex actions and instincts. If a frog, on the 

I flank of which a little drop of acid has been placed, 

^ rubs it off with the foot of the same side ; and, if that foot 

j be held, performs the same operation, at the cost of 

much effort, with the other foot, it certainly displays a 
curious instinct. But it is no leas true that the whole 
operation is a I'eflex operation of the spinal cord, 
J which can be performed quite as well when the brain is 

destroyed j and between which and simple reflex actions 


112 


HUME. 


[chap. 


there is a complete series of gradations. In like manner, 
when an infant takes the breast, it is impossible to say 
whether the action -should be leather termed instinctive 
or reflex. 

What are usually called the instincts of animals are, 
however, acts of such a nature that, if they were 
performed by men, they would involve the generation of 
a series of ideas and of inferences from them ; and it is 
a curious, and apparently an insoluble, problem whether 
they are, or are not, accompanied by cerebral changes of 
the same nature as those which give rise to ideas and 
infex-ences in oui'selves. When a chicken picks up a 
grain, for example, are there, firstly, certain sensations, 
accompanied by the feeling of relation between the grain 
and its own body; secondly, a desire of the grain; 
thirdly, a volition to seize it? Oi’, are only the sensational 
terms of the series actually represented in consciousness 1 
The latter seems the more probable opinion, though 
it must be admitted that the other altexmativo is 
possible. But, in this case, the series of mental states 
which occurs is such as would be represented in 
language by a series of propositions, and would afford 
proof positive of the existence of innate ideas, in the 
Cartesian sense. Indeed, a metaphysical fowl, brood- 
ing over the mental operations of his fully-fledged con- 
sciousness, might appeal to the fact as proof that, in tlie 
very fet action of his life, he aasuxned the existence of 
the Ego and the non-Ego, and of a relation between the 
two. 

In all seriousness, if the existence of instincts bo 
panted, the possibility of the ejdstence of innate ideas, 
in the most extended sense ever imagined by Descartes, 
must also be admitted. In fact, Descartes, as we have 


V.] MENTAL PHENOMENA OF ANIMALS. ‘ 113 

seen, illustrates what he means by an innate idea, by 
the analogy of hereditary diseases or hereditary mental 
peculiarities, such as generosity On the other hand, 
hereditary mental tendencies may justly be termed 
instincts; and still more appropriately might those 
special proclivities, which constitute what we call genius, 
come into the same category. 

The child who is impelled to draw as soon as it can 
hold a pencil ; the Mozart who breaks out into music as 
early ; the boy Bidder who worked out the most com- 
plicated sums without learning arithmetic; the boy 
Pascal who evolved Euclid out of his own conscious- 
ness : ’ all these may be said to have been impelled by 
instinct, as much as are the beaver and the bee. And the 
man of genius, is distinct in kind from the man of clever- 
ness, by reason of the working within him of strong 
innate tendencies — which cultivation may improve, but 
which it can no more create, than horticulture can make 
thistles bear figs. The analogy between a musical 
instrument and the mind holds good here also. Art 
and industry may get much music, of a sort, out of a 
penny v^histle ; but, when all is done, it has no chance 
against an organ. The innate musical potentialities of 
the two are infinitely different. 


I 


CHAPTER VI. 


LANGUAGE — PROPOSITIONS CONCERNING NECESSARY TRUTHS. 

Though we may accept Hume’s conclusion that speech- 
less animals think, believe, and reason ; yet, it must be 
borne in mind, that there is an impoi'tant difference 
between the signification of the terms when applied to 
them and when applied to those animals which possess 
language. The thoughts of the former are trains of 
mere feelings ; those of the latter are, in addition, 
trains of the ideas of the signs which represent feelings, 
and which are called words.” 

A word, in fact, is a spoken or written sign, the idea 
of which is, by repetition, so closely associated with the 
idea of the simple or complex feeling which it represents, 
that the association becomes indissoluble. No English- 
man, for example, can think of the word “ dog without 
immediately having the idea of the group of impres- 
sions to which that name is given ; and conversely, the 
group of impressions immediately calls up the idea of 
the word dog.” 

The association of words with impressions and ideas 
is the process of naming ; and language approaches 
perfection, in proportion as the shades of difFeronce 
between various ideas and impressions are represented 
by differences in their names. 

The names of simple impressions and ideas, or of 


OH. VI.] 


LANGUAGE. 


115 


groups of co-existent or successive complex impressions 
and ideas, considered fer se, are substantives ; as redness, 
dog, silver, mouth 3 while the names of impressions or 
ideas considered as parts or attributes of a complex whole, 
are adjectives. Thus redness, considered as part of the 
complex idea of a rose, becomes the adjective red ; flesh- 
eater, as ‘part of the idea of a dog, is represented by 
carnivorous ; whiteness, as part of the idea of silver, is 
white; and so on. 

The linguistic machinery for the expression of belief 
is called predioation ; and, as all beliefs express ideas of 
relation, we may say that the sign of predication is the 
verbal symbol of a feeling of relation. The words which 
serve to indicate predication are vei'bs. If I say “ silver ’ * 
and then “ white,” I merely utter two names ; but if I 
interpose between them the verb “is,” I express a 
belief in the co-existence of the feeling of whiteness 
with the other feelings which constitute the totality of 
the complex idea of silver ; in other words, I predicate 
“ whiteness ” of silver. 

In such a case as this, the verb expresses predication 
and nothing else, and is called a copula. But, in the great 
majority of verbs, the word is the sign of a complex idea, 
and the predication is expressed only by its form. Thus 
in “ silver shines,” the vei’b “ to shine” is the sign for 
the feeling of brightness, and the mark of predication 
lies in the form “shine-^.” 

Another result is brought about by the forms of 
verbs. By slight modifications they are made to indicate 
that a belief, or px*edication, is a memory, or is an expec- 
tation. Thus “ silver shone ” expresses a memory ; 
“ silver loill shine” an expectation. 

The form of words which expresses a predication is 

I 2 


116 


HUME. 


[CHAP, 


a proposition. Hence, every predication is tiie verbal 
equivalent of a belief; and, as every belief is either an 
immediate consciousness, a memory, or an expectation, 
and as every expectation is traceable to a memory, it 
follows that, in the long run, all propositions express 
either immediate states of consciousness, or memories. 
The proposition which predicates A of X must mean 
either, that the fact is testified by my present conscious- 
ness, as when I say that two colours, visible at this 
moment, resemble one another ; or that A is indissolubly 
associated with X in memory ; or that A is indissolubly 
associated with X in expectation. But it has already been 
shown that expectation is only an expression of memory. 

Hume does not discuss the nature of language, but so 
much of what remains to be said, concerning his philo- 
sophical tenets, turns upon the value and the origin of 
verbal propositions, that this summary sketch of the re- 
lations of language to the thinking process will probably 
not be deemed superfiuous. 

So large an extent of the field of thought is traversed 
by Hume, in his discussion of the verbal propositions in 
which mankind enshrine their beliefs, that it would be 
impossible to follow him throughout all the windings of 
his long journey, within the limits of this essay. I 
purpose, therefore, to limit myself to those propositions 
which concern — 1. Hecessary Truths ; 2. The order of 
Hat ore; 3. The Soul ; 4. Theism ; 5. The Passions and 
Yolition; 6, The Principle of Morals. 

Hume’s views respecting .necessary truths, and more 
particularly concerning causation, have, more than any 
other part of his teaching, contributed to give him a 
prominent place in the history of philosophy. 


VI.] 


NECESSARY TRTJTHS. 


W 


All the objects of human reason and inquiry may natur- 
ally be divided into two kinds, to wit, relations of ideas and 
matters of fact Of the first kind are the sciences of geometry, 
algebra, and arithmetic, and, in short, every affirmation which 
is either intuitively or demonstratively certain. That the 
square of the hypothenuse is equal to the square of the tioo sides, 
is a proposition which expresses a relation between these two 
%ures. That three times five is equal to the half of thirty, 
expresses a relation between these numbers. Propositions of 
tliis kind are discoverable by the mere operation of thought 
without dependence on whatever is anywhere existent in 
the universe. Though there never were a circle or a triangle 
in nature, the truths demonstrated by Euclid would for ever 
retain their certainty and evidence. 

‘‘Matters of fact, which are the second objects of human 
reason, are not ascertained in the same manner, nor is an 
evidence of their truth, however great, of a like nature with 
the foregoing. The contrary of every matter of fact is still 
possible, because it can never imply a contradiction, and is 
conceived by the mind with the same facility and distinct- 
ness, as if ever so conformable to reality, Thai the sun will 
not rise to-morrow^ is no less intelligible a proposition, and 
implies no more contradiction, than the affirmation, that it will 
rise. We should in vain, therefore, attempt to demonstrate 
its falsehood. Were it demonstratively false, it would imply 
a contradiction, and could never be distinctly conceived by 
the mind.^'— (IV. pp. 32, 33.) 

The distinction here drawn between the truths of 
geometry and other kinds of truth is far less sharply 
indicated in the Treatise, but ac Hume expressly dis- 
owns any opinions on these matters but such as are 
expressed in the Inquiry, we may confine ourselves to 
the latter \ and it is needful to look narrowly into the 
propositions here laid down, as much stress has been 
laid upon Hume’s admission that the truths of mathe- 
matics are intuitively and demonstratively certain; in 


HUME. 


118 


[chap. 


other word&v that they are necessary and, in that respect, 
differ from all other Hnds of belief. 

What is meant by the assertion that propositions 
of this kind are discoverable by the mere operation 
of thought without dependence on what is anywhere 
existent in the universe ” 1 

Suppose that there were no such things as impressions 
of sight and touch anywhere in the universe, what idea 
could we have even of a straight line, much less of a 
triangle and of the relations between its sides ? The 
fundamental proposition of all Hume’s philosophy is 
that ideas are copied from impressions ; and, therefore, 
if there were no impressions of straight lines and 
triangles there could be no ideas of straight lines and 
triangles. But what we mean by the universe is the 
sum of our actual and possible impressions. 

So, again, whether our conception of number is de- 
rived from relations of impressions in space or in time, 
the impressions must exist in nature, that is, in expe- 
rience, before their relations can be perceived. Form 
and number are mere names for certain relations 
between matters of fact ; unless a man had seen or felt 
the difference between a straight line and a crooked one, 
straight and crooked would have no more meaning to 
him, than red and blue to the blind. ^ 

The axiom, that things which are equal to the same 
are equal to one another, is only a particular case of the 
predication of similarity ; if there were no impressions, 
it is obvious that there could be no predicates. But 
what is an existence in the universe but an impression ? 

If what are called necessary truths are ligidly ana- 
lysed, they will be found to be of two kinds. Either 
they depend on the convention which underlies the 


VI.] 


NECESSARY TRUTHS, 


119 


possibility of intelligible speech, that terms shall al- 
ways have the same meaning ; or they are propositions 
the negation of which implies the dissolution of some 
association in memory or expectation, which is in fact 
indissoluble ; or the denial of some fact of immediate 
consciousness. 

The ^'necessary truth A=Ameans that the per- 
ception which is called A shall always be called A. The 
^‘necessary truth” that ^^two straight lines cannot in- 
close a space,” means that we have no memory, and can 
form no expectation of their so doing. The denial of 
the ^‘necessary truth” that the thought now in my mind 
exists, involves the denial of consciousness. 

To the assertion that the evidence of matter of fact, 
is not so strong as that of relations of ideas, it may be 
Justly replied, that a great number of matters of fact are 
nothing but relations of ideas. If I say that red is unlike 
blue, I make an assertion concerning a relation of ideas , 
but it is also matter of fact, and the contrary proposition 
is inconceivable. If I remember ^ something that hap- 
pened five minutes ago, that is matter of fact ; and, at 
the same time, it expresses a relation between the event 
remembered and the present time. It is wholly incon- 
ceivable to me that the event did not happen, so that 
my assurance respecting it is as strong as that which 
I have respecting any other necessary truth. In fact, 
the man is either very wise or very virtuous, or very 
lucky, perhaps all three, who has gone through life 
without accumulating a store of such necessary beliefs 
which he would give a good deal to be able to dis- 
believe. 

^ Hume, however, expressly includes the ^‘records of our 
memory” among Ms matters of fact. — (IT. p. 33.) 



120 


HUME. 


[cirAi\ 


It would be beside the mark to discuss the matter 
further on the present occasion. Tt is sufEcient to point 
out that, whatever may be the dllferences, between ma- 
thematical and other truths, they do not justify Hixme’s 
statement. And it is, at any rate, impossible to prove, 
that the cogency of mathematical first principles is due 
to anything more than these circumstances ; that the ex- 
periences with which they are concerned are among the 
first which arise in the mind ; that they are so incessantly 
repeated as to justify us, according to the ordinary laws 
of ideation, in expecting that the associations which 
they form will be of extreme tenacity ; while the fact, 
that the expectations based upon them are always 
verified, finishes the process of welding them together. 

Thus, if the axioms of mathematics are innate, nature 
would seem to have taken unnecessary trouble since 
the ordinary process of association appeal's to be amply 
sufficient to confer upon them all the imiversality and 
necessity which they actually possess. 

Whatever needless admissions Hume may have made 
respecting other necessary truths he is’ quite clear 
about the axiom of causation, ‘‘ That whatever event lias 
a beginning must have a cause/’ whether and in what 
sense it is a necessary truth ; and, that question being 
decided, whence it is derived. 

With respect to the first question, Hume denies tliat 
it is a necessary truth, in the sense that we are unal)le 
TiO conceive the contrary. The evidence by which he 
supports this conclusion in the Inquiry, however, is 
not strictly relevant to the issue, 

“ No object ever discovers, by the qualities winch appear to 
the senses, either the cause which produced it, or the effects 


CAUSE Am EFFECT. 


121 


VL] 

which will arise from it ; nor can our reason, unassisted by 
experience, ever draw any inference concerning real existence 
and matter of fact.”-~(lV. p. 35.) 

Abundant illustrations are given of this assertion, 
which indeed cannot be seriously doubted ; but it does 
not follow that, because we are totally unable to say what 
cause preceded, or what effect will succeed, any event, 
we do not necessarily suppose that the event had a cause 
and will be succeeded by an effect. The scientific inves- 
tigator who notes a new phenomenon may be utterly 
ignorant of its cause, but he will, without hesitation, seek 
for that cause. If you ask him why he does so, he will 
probably say that it must have had a cause ; and thereby 
imply that his belief in causation is a necessary belief. 

In the Treatise Hume indeed takes the bull by the 
horns : 

. . as all distinct ideas are separable from each other, 
and as the ideas of cause and effect are evidently distinct, ’twill 
be easy for us to conceive any object to be non-existent this 
moment and existent the next, without conjoining to it the 
distinct idea of a cause or productive principle.’^ — (I. p. 111.) 

If Hume had been content to state what he 
believed to be matter of fact, and had abstained from 
giving superfluous reasons for that which is susceptible 
of being proved or disproved only by personal expe- 
rience, his position would have been stronger. I*or it 
seems clear that, on the ground of observation, he is quite 
right. Any man who lets his fancy run riot in a waking 
dream, may experience the existence at one moment, and 
the nomexistence at the next, of phenomena which 
suggest no connexion of cause and effect. Kot only so, 
but it is notorious that, to the unthinking mass of man* 


122 


HITME. 


[OHAP, 


kind, nine-tentlis of tke facts of life do not suggest the 
relation of cause and effect ; and they practically deny 
the existence of any such relation by attributing them to 
chance. Few gamblers but would stare if they were told 
that the falling of a die on a particular face is as much 
the effect of a definite cause as the fact of its falling ; it 
is a proverb that the wind bloweth where it listeth ; 
and even thoughtful men usually receive with surprise 
the suggestion, that the form of the crest of every wave 
that breaks, wind-driven, on the sea-shore, and the 
direction of every particle of foam that flies before the 
gale, are the exact effects of definite causes; and, as such, 
must be capable of being determined, deductively, from 
the laws of motion and the properties of air and water. 
8o again, there are large numbers of highly intelli- 
gent persons who rather pride themselves on their fixed 
belief that our volitions have no cause ; or that the will 
causes itself, which is either the same thing, or a contra- 
diction in terms. 

Hume’s argument in support of what appears to be 
a true proposition, however, is of the circular sort, for the 
major premiss, that all distinct ideas are separable in 
thought, assumes the question at issue. 

But the question whether the idea of causation is 
necessary, or not, is really of very little importance. 
For, to say that an idea is necessary is simply to affirm 
that we cannot conceive the contrary ; and the fact that 
we cannot conceive the contrary of any belief may be 
a presumption, but is certainly no proof, of its truth. 

In the well-known experiment of touching a single 
round object, such as a marble, with crossed fingers, it 
is utterly impossible to conceive that we have not two 
round objects under them; and, though light is un- 


VI.] 


CAUSE AND EFFECT. 


123 


doubtedly a mere sensation arising in the brain, it is 
utterly impossible to conceive that it is not outside the 
retina. In the same way, he who touches anything with 
a rod, not only is irresistibly led to believe that the 
sensation of contact is at the end of the rod, but is 
utterly incapable of conceiving that this sensation is 
really in his head. Yet that which is inconceivable is 
manifestly true in all these cases. The beliefs and the 
unbeliefs are alike necessary, and alike erroneous. 

It is commonly urged that the axiom of causation 
cannot be derived from experience, because experience 
only proves that many things have causes, whereas the 
axiom declares that all things have causes. The syllo- 
gism, ‘'many things which come into existence have 
causes, A has come into existence : therefore A had a 
cause,” is obviously fallacious, if A is not previously 
shown to be one of the "many things.” And this ob- 
jection is perfectly sound so far as it goes. The axiom of 
causation cannot possibly be deduced from any general 
proposition which simply embodies experience. But it 
does not follow that the belief, or expectation, expressed 
by the axiom, is not a product of experience, generated 
antecedently to, and altogether independently of, the 
logically unjustifiable language in which we express it. 

In fact, the axiom of causation resembles all other 
beliefs of expectation in being the verbal symbol of a 
purely automatic act of the mind, which is altogether 
extra-logical, and would be illogical, if it were not con- 
stantly verified by experience. Experience, as we have 
seen, stores up memories ; memories generate expecta- 
tions or beliefs — why they do so may be explained here- 
after by proper investigation of cerebral physiology. 
But, to seek for the reason of the facts in the verbal 


124 


HUME. 


[chap. 


syinbols by which they are expressed, and to be as- 
tonished that it is not to be found there, is surely 
singular ; and what Hume did was to turn attention 
from the verbal proposition to the psychical fact ot 
which it is the symbol. 

When any natural object or event is presented, it is inv 
possible for us, by any sagacity or penetration, to discover, or 
even conjecture, mthout experience, what event will result 
from it, or to carry our foresight beyond that object, which is 
immediately present to the memory and senses. Even after 
one instance or experiment, w’here we have observed a par- 
ticular event to follow upon another, we are not entitled to 
form a general rule, or foretell what will happen in like 
cases; it being justly esteemed an unpardonable temerity to 
judge of the whole course of nature from one single ex- 
periment, however accurate or certain. But when one par- 
ticular species of events has always, in all instances, been 
conjoined with another, we make no longer any scruple of 
foretelling one upon the appearance of the other, and of 
employing that reasoning which can alone assure us of 
any matter of fact or existence. We then call the one 
object Cause, the other Effect We suppose that there is 
some connexion between them ; some power in the one, by 
which it infallibly produces the other, and operates with 
the greatest certainty and strongest necessity. . . . But 
there is nothing in a number of instances, different from 
every single instance, which is supposed to be exactly similar ; 
except only, that after a repetition of similar instances, the 
mind is carried by habit, upon the appearance of one event, 
to expect its usual attendant, and to believe that it will 
exist. . . , The first time a man saw the communication of 
motion by impulse, as hy the shock of two billiard balls, he 
could not pronounce that the one event was connected, but 
only that it was conjoined, with the other. After he has 
observed several instances of this nature, he then pronounces 
them to be comected. What alteration has happened to give 
rise to this new idea of coimedon f Nothing but that he now 


VI.] 


THE LOGIC OF CAUSATIOK. 


125 


feeU these events to be connected in his imagination, and can 
readily foresee the existence of the one from the appearance 
of the other. When we say, therefore, that one object is 
connected with anotlier we mean only that they liave acquired 
a connexion in our thought, and give rise to this inference, by 
which they become proofs of each other’ s existence ; a con- 
clusion which is somewhat extraordinary, but which seems 
founded on sufficient evidence.” — (IV. pp. 87 — 89.) 

In the fifteenth section of the third part of the 
Treatise, under the head of the Rules ly which to Judge 
of Causes and Effects, Hume gives a sketch of the method 
of allocating effects to their causes, upon which, so far 
as I am aware, no improvement was made down to the 
time of the publication of Mill’s Logic. Of Mill’s four 
methods, that of agreement is indicated in the following 
passage : — 

. where several different objects produce the same 
effect, it must be by means of some quality which we dis- 
cover to be common amongst them. For as like effects imply 
like causes, we must always ascribe the causation to the 
circumstance wherein we discover the resemblance.” — 
(I. p. 229.) 

Next, the foundation of the method of difference is 
stated ; — 

The difference in the the effects of two resembling ob- 
jects must proceed from that particular in which they differ. 
For, as like causes always produce like effects, when in any 
instance we find our expectation to be disappointed, we must 
conclude that this irregularity proceeds from some difference 
in the causes.” — (I. p. 230.) 

In the succeeding paragraph the method of concomi- 
tcmt variations is foreshadowed. 


126 


HUME. 


[CEA1\ 


When any object increases or diminishes with the in- 
crease or diminution of the cause, 'tis to l>e regarded as a 
compounded eifect, derived from tlie union of the several 
different effects which arise from the several different parts 
of the cause. The absence or presence, of one part of tlie 
cause is here supposed to be always attended witli the absence 
or presence of a proportionable part of tlie effect. This con- 
stant conjunction sufficiently proves that tlie one part is tlie 
cause of the other. We must, however, beware not to draw 
such a conclusion from a few experiments. ’^~(L p. 230.) 

Lastly, the following rule, though awkwardly stated, * 
contains a suggestion of the method qfrembms : — 

<^ ... an object which exists for any time in its full per- 
fection without any effect, is not tlie sole eausc of that effect 
but requires to be assisted by some other primuple, wliiidi 
may forward its influence and ' operation. B\:)r as like effects 
necessarily follow from like causes, and in a contiguous time 
and place, their separation for a moment shows that these 
causes are not complete ones.''— -(I. p. 230.) 

In addition to the bare notion of nocossttrj connexion 
between the cause and its effect, we undoubtedly ff nd in 
our minds the idea of something n^sident in the cause 
which, as we say, produces the effect, and wo call this 
something Force, Power, or Energy, iruino explains 
Force and Power as the results of the aHsooiation with 
inanimate causes of the feelings of endeavour or re- 
sistance which we experience, when our bodies give rise 
to, or resist, motion. 

If T throw a ball, I have a sense of effort which ends 
when the ball leaves my hand ; and, if I catch a ball, I 
have a sense of resistance which comes to an end with 
the quiescence of the ball. In the former ease, there is 
a strong suggestion of something having gone from 


VI.] 


FORCE, POWER AND ENERGY. 


127 


myself into tke ball ; in tbe latter, of something 
having been received from the ball. Let any one hold 
a piece of iron near a strong magnet, and the feeling 
that the magnet endeavours to pull the iron one way 
in the same manner as he endeavours to pull it in the 
opposite direction, is very strong. 

As Hume says : — 

^'No animal can put external bodies in motion without the 
sentiment of a msus, or endeavour ; and every animal has a 
sentiment or feeling from the stroke or blow of an external 
object that is in motion. These sensations, which are merely 
animal, and from which we can, a priori^ draw no inference, 
we are apt to transfer to, inanimate objects, and to suppose 
that they Lave some such feelings whenever they transfer or 
receive motion.” — (lY. p. 91, 

It is obviously, however, an absurdity not less gross 
than that of supposing the sensation of warmth to exist 
in a fire, to imagine that the subjective sensation of 
effort or resistance in ourselves can be present in exter- 
nal objects, when they stand in the relation of causes to 
other objects. 

To the argument, that we have a right to suppose the 
relation of cause and effect to contain something more 
than invariable succession, because, when we ourselves 
act as causes, or in volition, we are conscious of exerting 
power; Hume replies, that we know nothing of the 
feeling we call power except as effort or resistance ; and 
that we have not the slightest means of knowing 
whstuer it has anything to do with the production of 
bodily motion or mental changes. And he points out, 
as Descartes and Spinoza had done before him, that 
when voluntary motion ta.kes place, that which we will 



128 


HUME. 


[CH. VI. 



is not the immediate consequence of the act of volition, 
but something which is separated from it by a long 
chain of causes and efiects. If the will is the cause of 
the movement of a limb, it can be so only in the sense 
that the guard who gives the order to go on, is the cause 
of the transport of a train from one station to another. 

learn from anatomy, that the immediate object of 
power in voluntary motion is not the member itself which is 
moved, but certain muscles and nerves and animal spirits, 
and perhaps something still more minute and unknown, 
through which the motion is successively propagated, ere it 
reach the member itself, whose motion is the immediate 
object of volition. Can there be a more certain proof that the 
power by which the whole operation is performed, so far 
from being directly and fully known by an inward sentiment 
or consciousness, is to the last degree mysterious and unin- 
telligible ? Here the mind wills a certain event ; Imme- 
diately another event, unknown to ourselves, and totally 
difEerent from the one intended, is produced : This event pro- 
duces another equally unknown : Till at last, through a long 
succession, the desired event is produced.” —(IV. p. 78.) 

A still stronger argument against ascribing an oh- 
jective existence to force or power, on the strength of 
our supposed direct intuition of power in voluntary acts, 
may be urged from the unquestionable fact, that we do 
not know, and cannot know, that volition does cause 
corporeal motion ; while there is a great deal to be 
said in favour of the view that it is no cause, hut merely 
a concomitant of that motion. But the nature of 
volition will be moi'e fitly considered hereafter. 


CHAPTER VII. 

THE ORDEE OP NATURE : MIRACLES. 

If our beliefs of expectation are based on our beliefs of 
memory, and anticipation is only inverted recollection, it 
necessarily follows that every belief of expectation implies 
the belief that the future will have a certain resemblance 
to the past. Fx'om the first hour of experience, onwards, 
this belief is constantly being verified, until old age is 
inclined to suspect that experience has nothing new to 
offer. And when the experience of generation after 
generation is recorded, and a single book tells us more 
than Methuselah could have learned, had he spent every 
waking hour of his thousand years in learning ; when 
apparent disorders are found to be only the recurrent 
pulses of a slow working order, and the wonder of a 
year becomes the commonplace of a century ; ^vhen 
repeated and minute examination never reveals a break 
in the chain of causes and effects j and the whole edifice 
of practical life is built upon our faith in its continuity ; 
the belief that that chain has never been broken and 
will never be broken, becomes one of the strongest and 
most justifiable of human convictions. And it must be 
admitted to be a reasonable request, if we ask those who 
would have us put faith in the actual occurrence of 

K 


180 


HUME. 


[chap. 


interruptions of that order, to produce evidence in 
favour of their view, not only equal, hut superior, in 
weight to that which leads us to adopt ours. 

This is the essential argument of Hume’s famous 
disquisition upon miracles ; and it may safely he 
declared to he irrefragable. But it must he admitted, 
that Hume has surrounded the kernel of his essay witH 
a shell of very doubtful value. 

The first step in this, as in all other discussions, is. 
to come to a clear understanding as to the meaning o£ 
the terms employed. Argumentation whether miracles 
are possible, and, if possible, credible, is mere beating* 
the air until the arguers have agreed what they meaon 
by the word miracles.” 

Hume, with less than his usual perspicuity, but irL 
accordance with a common practice of believers in th^ 
miraculous, defines a miracle as a violation of tko 
laws of nature,” or as ‘‘a transgression of a law of 
nature by a particular volition of the Deity, or by tho 
interposition of some invisible agent.” 

There must, he says, — 

be an uniform experience against every miraculous event , 
otherwise the event would not merit that appellation. And 
as an uniform experience amounts to a proof, there is hero 
a direct and full proof, from the nature of the fact, against: 
the existence of any miracle ; nor can such a proof bo 
destroyed or the miracle rendered credible but by an opposito 
proof which is superior.” — (lY. p, 134 .) 

Every one of these dicta appears to be open to seriou3 
objection. 

The word miracle — ^in its primitivo 

and legitimate sense, simply means something wonderful- 


VII.] ORDEK OF NATUKE : MmACLES. ISl 

Cicero applies it as readily to the fancies of pMoso- 
piiers, Portenta et miracula pKilosopkornm somni- 
Sbiitiuin,” as we do to tlie prodigies of priests. And 
tile source of the wonder which a miracle excites is the 
t)elief, on the part of those who witness it, that it 
transcends or contradicts ordinary experience. 

The definition of a miracle as a violation of the laws 
of nature ” is, in reality, an employment of language 
which, on the face of the matter, cannot be justified. 
P’or ^‘nature” means neither more nor less than that 
which is ; the sum of phenomena presented to our 
oszperience ^ the totality of events past, present, and to 
come. Every event must be taken to be a part of 
nature, until proof to the contrary is supplied. And 
such proof is, from the nature of the case, impossible. 

Hume asks : — 

'^Why is it more than probable that all men must die: 
that lead cannot of itself remain suspended in the air : that fire 
consumes wood and is extinguished by water ; unless it be that 
these events are found agreeable to the laws of nature, and 
there is required a violation of those laws, or in other words, 
a miracle, to prevent them?’^— (lY. p. 133.) 

But the reply is obvious ; not one of these events is 
^ ‘ more than probable ” ; though the probability may 
reach such a very high degree that, in ordinary language, 
we are justified in saying that the opposite events are 
impossible. Calling our often verified experience a law 
of nature ” adds nothing to its value, nor in the slightest 
degree increases any probability that it will be verified 
again, which may arise out of the fact of its frequent 
verification. 

If a piece of lead were to remain suspended of itself, in 

K 2 


132 


HUME. 


[chap. 


the air, the occurrence would be a ‘^miracle,” in the sense 
of a wonderful event, indeed ; but no one trained in the 
methods of science would imagine that any law of nature 
was really violated thereby. He would simply set to work 
to investigate the conditions under which so highly 
unexpected an occurrence took place, and thereby 
enlarge his experience and modify his hitherto unduly 
narrow conception of the laws of nature. 

The alternative definition, that a miracle is a trans- 
gression of a law of nature by a particular volition of 
the Deity, or by the intex'position of some invisible 
agent,” (lY. p. 134, note) is still less defensible. For a 
vast number of mii-acles have professedly been worked, 
neither by the Deity, nor by any invisible agent ; but by 
Beelzebub and his compeers, or by very visible men. 

Moreover, not to repeat what has been said respecting 
the absurdity of supposing that something which occurs 
is a transgression of laws, our only knowledge of which is 
derived from the observation of that which occurs ; 
upon what sort of evidence can we be justified in 
concluding that a given event is the effect of a particular 
volition of the Deity, or of the interposition of some 
invisible (that is unperceivable) agent ? It may be so, 
but how is the assertion, that it is so, to be tested ? If 
it be said that the event exceeds the power of natural 
causes, what can justify such a saying ? The day-fly 
has better grounds for calling a thundei'stoi'm super- 
natural, than has man, with his experience of an 
infinitesimal fraction of duration, to say that the most 
astonishing event that can be imagined is beyond the 
scope of natural causes. 

Whatever is intelligible and can be distinctly conceived, 


VII.] OEDER OF j^TATUEE ; MIRACLES. 133 

implies no contradiction, and can never be proved false by 
any demonstration, argument, or abstract reasoning a priori 
— (IV. p.44.) 

So wx'ote Hume, with perfect justice, in his Sceptical 
Doubts, But a miracle, in the sense of a sudden and 
complete change in the customary order of nature, is 
intelligible, can be distinctly conceived, implies no con- 
tradiction ; and, therefore, according to Hume’s own 
showing, cannot be proved false by any demonstrative 
argument. 

Nevertheless, in diametrical contradiction to. his own 
principles, Hume says elsewhere : — 

‘^It is a miracle that a dead man should come to life; 
because that has never been observed in any age or country.” 
—(IV. p. 134.) 


That is to say, there is an uniform experience against 
such an event, and therefore, if it occurs, it is a violation 
of the laws of nature. Or, to put the argument in its 
naked absurdity, that which never has happened never 
can happen, without a violation of the laws of nature. 
In ti'uth, if a dead man did come to life, the fact 
would be evidence, not that any law of nature had been 
violated, but that those laws, even when they express 
the results of a very long and uniform experience, are 
necessarily based on incomplete knowledge, and are to 
be held only as grounds of more or less justifiable 
expectation. 

To sum up, the definition of a miracle as a suspension 
or a contravention of the order of Nature is self-contra- 
dictory, because all we know of the order of nature is 
derived from our observation of the course of events of 


134 


HUME. 


[chap. 


the so-called miracle is a part. On the other 
hand, no event is too extraordinary to be possible ; 
and, therefore, if by the term miracles we mean only 
‘^extremely wonderful events,’^ there can be no just 
grotind for denying the possibility of their occurrence. 


But when we turn from the question of the possibility 
of miracles, however they may be defined, in the 
abstract, to that respecting the grounds upon which we 
are justified in believing any particular miracle, Hume's 
arguments have a very diffei'ent value, for they resolve 
thenaselves into a simple statement of the dictates of 
common sense — which may be expressed in this canon : 
the naore a statement of fact co nfli cts with previous 
experience, the more complete must be the evidence 
which, is to justify us in believing it. It is upon this 
pi’inciple that every one carries on the business of 
common life. If a man tells me he saw a piebald horse 
in Piccadilly, I believe him without hesitation. The 
thing itself is likely enough, and there is no imaginable 
motive for his deceiving me. Put if the same person 
tells me he observed a zebra there, I might hesitate a 
little about accepting his testimony, unless I were well 
satisfied, not only as to his previous acquaintance with 
zebras, but as to his powers and opportunities of obser- 
vation in the present case. If, however, my informant 
assured me that he beheld a centaur trotting down that 
famous thoroughfare, I should emphatically decline to 
credit his statement ; and this even if he were the most 
saintly of men and ready to suffer martyrdom in support 
of his belief. In such a case, I could, of course, entertain 
no doubt of the good faith of the witness ; it would be 
only Ms competency, which unfortunately has very little 



OEDER OF NATUEE : MIRACLES. 135 

<io with good faith or intensity of conviction, which I 
prestmie to call in question. 

Indeed, I hardly know what testimony would satisfy 
of the existence of a live centaur. To put an 
^^treme case, suppose the late Johannes Mliller, of 
■Berlin, the greatest anatomist and physiologist among my 
contemporaries, had barely affirmed he had seen a live 
<^entaur, I should certainly have been staggered by the 
"height of an assertion coming from such an authority. 
But I could have got no further than a suspension of 
jndgment. For, on the whole, it would have been more 
pi'ol)able that even he had fallen into some error of inter- 
pretation of the facts which came under his observation, 
"hhari that such an animal as a centaur really existed, 
•^nd nothing short of a careful monograph, by a highly 
competent investigator, accompanied by figures and 
raeasurements of all the most important parts of a cen- 
taur, put forth under circumstances which could leave 
rio doubt that falsification or misinterpretation would 
raeet with immediate exposure, could possibly enable a 
raan of science to feel that he acted conscientiously, in 
expressing his belief in the existence of a centaur on 
tho evidence of testimony. 

This hesitation about admitting the existence of such 
a,ii animal as a centaur, be it observed, does not deserve 
reproach, as scepticism, but moderate praise, as mere 
scientific good faith. It need not imply, and it does 
xiob, so far as I am concerned, any a priori hypothesis 
tbat a centaur is an impossible animal; or, that his 
existence, if he did exist, would violate the laws of 
nature. Indubitably, the organisation of a centaur pre- 
sents a variety of practical difficulties to an anatomist and 
pKysioiogist; and a good many of thoSe generalisations 


HUME. 


[chap. 


136 

of onr present experience, which we are pleased to 
call laws of nature, would be upset by the appearance 
of such an animal, so that we should have to frame new 
laws to cover our extended experience. Every wise 
man will admit that the possibilities of nature are 
infinite, and include centaurs ; but he will not the less 
feel it his duty to hold fast, for the present, by the 
dictum of Lucretius, ‘‘ llTarn certe ex vivo Centauri non fit 
imago,” and to cast the entii*e burthen of proof, that 
centaurs exist, on the shoulders of those who ask him to 
believe the statement. 

Judged by the canons either of common sense, or of 
science, which are indeed one and the same, all ^‘miracles” 
are centaui's, or. they would not he miracles ; and men of 
sense and science will deal with them on the same princi- 
ples. No one who wishes to keep well within the limits of 
that which he has a right to assert will affirm that it is 
impossible that the sun and moon should ever have 
been made to appear to stand still in the valley of 
Ajalon ; or that the walls of a city should have fallen 
down at a trumpet blast ; or that water was turned into 
wine ; because such events are contrary to uniform experi- 
ence and violate laws of nature. For aught he can prove 
to the contrary, such events may appear in the order of 
nature to-morrow, Eut common sense and common 
honesty alike oblige him to demand from those who 
would have him believe in the actual occurrence of 
such events, evidence of a cogency proportionate to 
their departure from probability ; evidence at least as 
strong as that, which the man who says he has seen 
a centaur is bound to produce, unless he is content to 
be thought either more than ci'edulous or less than 
honest. 



VII.] ORDEE OF MATURE : MIRACLES. 137 

But are there any miracles on record, the evidence 
for which fulfils the plain and . simple requirements 
alike of elementary logic and of elementary morality ? 

Hume answers this question without the smallest 
hesitation, and with all the authority of a historical 
specialist : — 

There is not to be found, in all history, any miracle 
attested by a sufficient number of men, of such unquestioned 
goodness, education, and learning, as to secure us against all 
delusion in themselves ; of such undoubted integrity, as to 
place them beyond all suspicion of any design to deceive 
others ; of such credit and reputation in the eyes of mankind, 
as to have a great deal to lose in case of their being detected 
in any falsehood ; and at the same time attesting facts, per- 
formed in such a public manner, and in so celebrated a part 
of the world, as to render the detection unavoidable : All 
which circumstances are requisite to give us a full assurance 
.of the testimony of men.'’— (IV. p. 135.) 

These are grave assertions, but they are least likely 
to be challenged by those who have made it their 
business to weigh evidence and to give their decision 
under a due sense of the moral responsibility which 
they incur in so doing. 

It is probable that few persons who proclaim their 
belief in miracles have considered what would be 
necessary to justify that belief in the case of a pi'ofessed 
modern miracle- worker. Suppose, for example, it is 
affii'med that A.B. died and that C.I). brought him to 
life again. Let it be granted that A.B. and C.D. are 
persons of unimpeachable honour and vei'acity ; that 
C.B. is the next heir to A.B.'s estate, and therefore had 
a strong motive for not bringing him to life again ; and 


138 


HUME. 


[chap. 


that all A.B.’s relations, respectable persons who bore 
him a strong affection, or bad otherwise an interest in his 
being alive, declared that they saw him die. Fm-thermore, 
let A.B be seen after his recovery by all his friends 
and neighbours, and let his and their depositions, that 
he is now alive, be taken down before a magistrate of 
known integrity and acuteness : would all this constitute 
even presumptive evidence that C.D. had worked a 
miracle ? Unquestionably not. For the most important 
link in the whole chain of evidence is wanting, and 
that is the proof that A.B, was really dead. The 
evidence of ordinary observers on such a point as this 
is absolutely worthless. And, even medical evidence, 
unless the physician is a person of unusual knowledge 
and skill, may have little more value. Unless careful 
thermometric observation proves that the temperature 
has sunk below a certain point ; unless the cadaveric 
stiffening of the muscles has become well established ; 
all the ordinary signs of death may be fallacious, and 
the inteivention of C.D. may have had no more to do 
with A.B.’s restoration to life than any other fortui- 
tously coincident event. 

It may be said that such a coincidence would be more 
wonderful than the miracle itself. FTevertheless history 
acquaints us with coincidences as marvellous. 

On the l^th of February, 1842, Sir Eobert Sale held 
Jellalabad with a small English force and, daily expect- 
ing attack from an overwhelming force of Afghans, had 
spent three months in incessantly labouring to improve 
the fortifications of the town. Akbar Elhan had ap- 
proached within a few miles, and an onslaught of his 
army was supposed to be imminent. That morning an 
earthquake- — 



vil] OEDER OF NATURE : MIEACLES. 1S9 

‘‘ nearly destroyed the town, threw down the greater part of 
the parapets, the central gate with the adjoining bastions, and 
a part of the new bastion which flanked it. Three other 
bastions were also nearly destroyed, whilst several large 
breaches were made in the curtains, and the Peshawiir side, 
eighty feet long, was quite practicable, the ditch being filled, 
and the descent easy. Thus in one moment the labours of 
three months were in a great measure destroyed.” ^ 

If Akbar Khan had happened to give orders for an 
assault in the early morning of the 19th of February, 
what good follower of the Prophet could have doubted 
that Allah had lent his aid ? As it chanced, however, 
Mahometan faith in the miraculous took another turn ; 
for the energetic defenders of the post had I’epaired the 
damage by the end of the month ; and the enemy, finding 
no signs of the earthquake when they invested the place, 
asci'ibed the supposed immunity of Jellalabadto English 
witchcraft. 

But the conditions of belief do not vary with time 
or place; and, if it is undeniable that evidence of so 
complete and weighty a character is needed, at the present 
time, for the establishment of the occurrence of such a 
wonder as that supposed, it has always been needful. 
Those who study the extant records of miracles with due 
attention will judge for themselves how far it has ever 
been supplied. 

^ Report of Captain Broadfoot, garrison engineer, quoted in 
Kaye’s A fghmistan. 


CHAPTER VIII. 


THEISM j EVOLUTION OF THEOLOGY. 

Hume seems to have had but two hearty dislikes : the 
one to the English nation, and the other to all the 
professors of dogmatic theology. The one aversion he 
vented only privately to his friends ; but, if he is ever 
bitter in bis public utterances, it is against priests^ in 
general and theological enthusiasts and fanatics in par- 
ticular ; if he ever seems insincere, it is when he wishes 
to insult theologians by a parade of sarcastic respect. 
One need go no f mother than the peroration of the Essay 
on Miracles for a characteristic illustration. 

“I am the better pleased with the method of reasoning 
here delivered, as I think it may serve to confound those 
dangerous friends and disguised enemies to the Chrisiian 
religion who have undertaken to defend it by the principles 


^ In a note to the Essay on Superstition and Enthusiasm, Hume 
is careful to define what he means by this term. “ By priests I 
understand only the pretenders to power and dominion, and to a 
superior sanctity of character, distinct from virtue and good morals. 
These are very different horn clergymm, who are set apart to the 
care of sacred matters, and the conducting our public devotions 
with greater decency and order. There is no rank of men more to 
be respected than the latter. ” — (III. p. 83.) 


CH. viiT.] THEISM ; EYOLUTION OF THEOLOGY. 


141 


of human reason. Our most holy religion is founded on 
Faith, not on reason, and it is a sure method of exposing it 
to put it to such a trial as it is by no means fitted to endure. 
. . . the Christian religion not only was at first attended with 
miracles, but even at this day cannot be believed by any 
reasonable person without one. Mere reason is insufficient to 
convince us of its veracity : And whoever is moved by Faith 
to assent to it, is conscious of a continual miracle in his own 
person, which subverts all the principles of his understand- 
ing, and gives him a determination to believe what is most 
contrary to custom and experience.” — (IV. pp. 153, 154.) 

It is obvious that, here and elsewhere, Hume, adopting 
a popular confusion of ideas, uses religion as the equi- 
valent of dogmatic theology ; and, therefore, he says, with 
perfect justice, that religion is nothing but a species of 
philosophy (iv. p. 171). Here no doubt lies the root 
of his antagonism. The quarrels of theologians and 
philosophers have not been about religion, but about 
philosophy ; and philosophers not unfrequently seem to 
entertain the same feeling towards theologians that 
sportsmen cherish towards poachers. There cannot be 
two passions more nearly resembling each other than 
hunting and philosophy,” says Hume. And philosophic 
hunters are given to think, that, while they pursue truth 
for its own sake, out of pure love for the chase (perhaps 
mingled with a little human weakness to be thought 
good shots), and by open and legitimate methods ; their 
theological competitors' too often care merely to supply 
the market of establishments ; and disdain neither the 
aid of the snares of superstition, nor the cover of the 
daikness of ignorance. 

Unless some foundation was given for this impression 
by the theological writers whose works had fallen in 
Hume’s way, it is difficult to account for the depth of 




feeling which so good natured a man mauifeste on the 
subject. 

Thus he writes in the Natural History of Religion^ with 
quite unusual acerbity : — 

“ The chief objection to it [the ancient heathen mythology] 
with regard to this planet is, that it is not ascertained by any 
just reason or authority. The ancient tradition insisted on 
by heathen priests and theologers is but a weak foundation : 
and transmitted also such a number of contradictory reports, 
supported all of them by equal authority, that it became 
absolutely impossible to fix a preference among them. A 
few volumes, therefore, must contain all the polemical writings 
of pagan priests : And their whole theology must consist more 
of traditional stories and superstitious practices than of 
philosophical argument and controversy. 

But where theism forms the fundamental principle of any 
popular religion, that tenet is so conformable to sound reason, 
that philosophy is apt to incorporate itself with such a system 
of theology. And if the other dogmas of that system be con- 
tained in a sacred book, such as the Alcoran, or be determined 
by any visible authority, like that of the Roman pontiff, 
speculative reasoners naturally carry on their assent, and em- 
brace a theory, which has been instilled into them by their 
earliest education, and which also possesses some degree of 
consistence and uniformity. But as these appearances are 
sure, air of them, to prove deceitful, philosophy will very 
soon find herself very unequally yoked with her new associate ; 
and instead of regulating each principle, as they advance 
together, she is at every turn perverted to serve the purposes 
of superstition. For besides the unavoidable incoherences, 
which must be reconciled and adjusted, one may safely affirm, 
that all popular theology, especially the scholastic, has a kind 
of appetite for absurdity and contradiction. If that theology 
went not beyond reason and common sense, her doctrines 
would appear too easy and familiar. Amazement must of 
necessity be raised : Mystery affected : Darkness and obscurity 
sought after: And a foundation of merit afforded to the 



viiL] THEISM ; EVOLUTION OF THEOLOGY. 143 

devout votaries, who desire an opportunity of subduing their 
rebellious reason by the belief of the most unintelligible 
sophisms. 

“ Ecclesiastical history sufficiently confirms these reflections. 
When a controversy is started, some people always pretend 
with certainty to foretell the issue. Whichever opinion, say 
they, is most contrary to plain reason is sure to prevail ; even 
when the general interest of the system requires not that 
decision. Though the reproach of heresy may, for some time, 
be bandied about among the disputants, it always rests at last 
on the side of reason. Any one, it is pretended, that has but 
learning enough of this kind to know the definition of Arkm^ 
Pelagian, Erastian, Socinian^ Sahellian, Eutychian^ Nestorian^ 
Monothelite^ &c., not to mention Protestant, whose fate is yet 
uncertain, will be convinced of the truth of this obseiwation. 
It is thus a system becomes absurd in the end, merely from its 
being reasonable and philosophical in the beginning. 

^'To oppose the torrent of scholastic religion by such feeble 
maxims as these, that it is impossible for the same thing to he 
and not to he, that the whole is greater than a part, that tioo and 
three make five, is pretending to stop the ocean with a bulrush. 
Will you set up profane reason against sacred mystery ? No 
punishment is great enough for your impiety. And the same 
fires which were kindled for heretics will serve also for the 
destruction of philosophers.” — (IV. pp. 481 — 3.) 

Holding these opinions respecting the recognised 
systems of theology and their professors, Hume, never- 
theless, seems to have had a theology of his own ; that 
is to say, he seems to have thought (though, as will appear, 
it is needful for an expositor of his opinions to speak 
very guardedly on this point) that the problem of 
theism is susceptible of scientific treatment, with 
something more than a negative result. His opinions are 
to be gathered from the eleventh section of the Inquiry 
(1748) ; from the concerning Natural Religion, 

which were written at least as early as 1751, though not 


HUME. 


144 


[chap. 


published till after bis death ; and from the Watuml 
History of Religion, published in 1757. 

In the fii'st two pieces, the reader is left to judge for 
himself which interlocutor in the dialogue represents 
the thoughts of the author ; but, for the views put for- 
ward in the last, Hume accepts the responsibility. 
Unfortunately, this essay deals almost wholly with the 
historical development of theological ideas ; and, on the 
question of the philosophical foundation of theology, does 
little more than express the writer’s contentment with 
the argument from design. 


^^The whole frame of nature bespeaks an Intelligent 
Author; and no rational inquirer can, after serious reflection, 
suspend his belief a moment with regard to the primary prin- 
ciples of genuine Theism and Religion. — (IV. p. 435.) 

‘‘Were men led into the apprehension of invisible, intel- 
ligent power, by a contemplation of the works of nature, they 
could never possibly entertain any conception but of one 
single being, who bestowed existence and order on this vast 
machine, and adjusted all its parts according to one regular 
plan or connected system. For though, to persons of a 
certain turn of mind, it may not appear altogether absurd, 
that several independent beings, endowed with superior 
wisdom, might conspire in the contrivance and execution of 
one regular plan, yet is this a merely arbitrary supposition, 
which, even if allowed possible, must be confessed neither to 
be supported by probability nor necessity. All things in the 
universe are evidently of a piece. Everything is adjusted to 
everything . One design prevails throughout the whole. And 
this uniformity leads the mind to acknowledge one author; 
because the conception of difEerent authors, without any dis- 
tinction of attributes or operations, serves only to give per- 
plexity to the imagination, without bestowing any satisfaction 
on the understanding.’ ' — p. 442.) 

Thus Hume appears to have sincerely accepted the 


vrn,] THEISM; EYOLUTIOIST OF THEOLOGY. 145 

two fundamental conclusions of tLe argument from 
design ; firstly, that a Deity exists ; and, secondly, that 
He possesses attributes more or less allied to those 
of human intelligence. But, at this embryonic stage of 
theology, Hume’s progress is arrested ; and, after a 
survey of the development of dogma, his “ general corol- 
lary ” is, that — 

The whole is a riddle, an enigma, an inexplicable mystery. 
Doubt, uncertainty, suspense of judgment, appear the only 
result of our most accurate scrutiny concerning this subject. 
But siKjli is the frailty of human reason, and such the irre- 
sistible contagion of opinion, that even this deliberate doubt 
cjould scarcely be upheld ; did we not enlarge our view, and 
opposing one species of superstition to another, set them a 
quarrelling ; while we ourselves, during their fury and con- 
tention, happily make our escape into the calm, though obscure, 
regions of philosophy,’’ — (IV. p. 513.) 

Thus it may be fairly presumed that Hume expresses 
his own sentiments in the words of the speech with 
which Philo concludes the Dialogues, 

the whole of natural theology, as some people seem to 
maintain, resolves itself into one simple, though somewhat 
ambiguous, at least undefined proposition, That the cause or 
causes of order in the unwerse ^rdhably hear some remote analogy 
to human intelligence : If this proposition be not capable of 
extension, variation, or more particular explication : If it 
affords no inference that affects human life or can be the 
source of any action or forbearance: And if the analogy, 
imperfect as it is, can be carried no further than to the human 
intelligence, and cannot be transferred, with any appearance 
of probability, to the other qualities of the mind ; if this really 
be the case, what can the most inquisitive, contemplative, 
and religious man do in ore than give a plain, pliilosopliical 
assent to the proposition, as often as it occurs, and believe 



146 ‘ 


HUME. 


[CHAP. 


that the arguments on which it is established exceed the 
objections which lie against it ? Some astonishment indeed 
will naturally arise from the greatness of the object ,• some 
melancholy from its obscurity ; some contempt of human 
reason, that it can give no solution more satisfactory with 
regard to so extraordinary and magnificent a question. But 
believe me, Cleanthes, the most natural sentiment which a 
well-disposed mind will feel on this occasion, is a longing 
desire and expectation that Heaven would be pleased to dis- 
sipate, at least alleviate, this profound ignorance, by affording 
some more particular revelation to mankind, and making 
discoveries of the nature, attributes, and operations of the 
Divine object of our faith.” ^ — (IL pp. 547 — 8.) 

Such being the sum total of Hume’s conclusions, it 
cannot be said that his theological burden is a heavy 
one. But, if we turn from the Fatural History of Re- 
ligion, to the Treatise, the Inquiry, and the Dialogues, the 
story of what happened to the ass laden with salt, who 
took to the water, irresistibly suggests itself. Hume’s 
theism, such as it is, dissolves away in the dialectic 
river, until nothing is left but the verbal sack in which it 
was contained. 

• Of the two theistic propositions to which Hume is 
committed, the fii'st is the affirmation of the existence 
of a God, supported by the argument from the nature of 

1 It is needless to quote the rest of the passage, though I cannot 
refrain from observing that the recommendation wlxich it contains, 
that a “man of letters” should become a philosophical sceptic as 
“the first and most essential step towards Ixjing a sound believing 
Christian,” though adopted and largely acted upon by many a 
champion of orthodoxy in these days, is questionable in taste, if it 
be meant as a jest, and more than questionable in morality, if it is 
to be taken in earnest. To pretend that you believe any doctrine 
for no better reason than that you doubt everything else, would be 
dishonest, if it were not preposterous. 


vni.] THEISM ; EYOLUTION OF THEOLOGY. 147 

causation. In the Dialogues^ Philo, while pushing scepti- 
cism to its utmost limit, is nevertheless made to say 
that — 

. . . where reasonable men treat these subjects, the ques- 
tion can never be concerning the Being, but only the Nature, of ’ 
the Deity. The former truth, as you will observe, is unquestion- 
able and self-evident. Nothing exists without a cause, and 
the original cause of this universe (whatever it be) we call 
'Grod, and piously ascribe to him every species of perfection.” 
— (ir. p.439.) 

The expositor of Hume, who wishes to do his work 
thoroughly, as far as it goes, cannot but fall into per- 
plexity ^ when he contrasts this language with that of 

* A perplexity which is increased rather than diminished by some 
passages in a letter to Gilbert Elliot of Miuto (March 10, 1751). 
Hume says, You would perceive by the sample I have given you 
that I make Cleanthes the hero of the dialogue j whatever you can 
think of, to strengthen that side of the argument, will be most 
acceptable to mo. Any propensity you imagine T have to the other 
side crept in upon me against my will ; and ’tis not long ago that 
I burned an old manuscript book, wrote before I was twenty, which 
contained, page after page, the gradual progress of my thoughts on 
this head. It began with an anxious scent after arguments to con- 
fii’m the common opinion ; doubts stole in, dissipated, returned ; 
were again dissipated, returned again ; and it was a perpetual 
struggle of a restless imagination against inclination—perhaps 
against reason. ... I could wish Cleanthes’ argument could be so 
analysed as to be rendered quite formal and regular. The propen- 
sity of the mind towards it — unless that propensity were as strong 
and universal as that to believe in our senses and experience — will 
stni, I am afraid, he esteemed a suspicious foundation. ’Tis here I 
wish for your assistance. We must endeavour to prove that this 
propensity is somewhat different from our inclination to find our 
own figures in the clouds, our faces in the moon, our passions and 
sentiments even in inanimate matter. Such an inclination may 
and ought to bo controlled, and can never be a legitimate ground of 
assent.” (Burton, Life^ T. pp. 331 — 3.) The picture of Hume here 

L 2 , 


148 


HUME. 


[CHA?. 


the sections of the thirds part of the Treatise, entitled^ 
Why a Cause is Always Necessary, and Of the Idea of 
Necessary Connexion. 

It is there shown, at large, that every demonstration 
•which has been produced for the necessity of a cause is 
fallacious and sophisticar’ (I. p. Ill) ; it is affirmed, that 

there is no absolute nor metaphysical necessity that 
every beginning of existence should be a.ttended with 
such an object ” [as a cause] (L p. 227) ; and it is roundly 
asserted, that it is easy for us to conceive any object 
to be non-existent this moment and existent the next, 
without conjoining to it the distinct idea of a cause or 
productive principle’^ (I. p. 111). So far from the axiom, 
that whatever begins to exist must have a cause of exist- 
ence, being self-evident,’" as Philo calls it, Hume 
spends the greatest; care in showing that it is nothing 
but the product of custom, or experience. 

And the doubt thus forced upon one, whether Philo 
ought to be taken as even, so far, Hume’s mouth- 
piece, is increased when we reflect that we are dealing 
with an acute reasoner ; and that there is no difficulty 
in drawing the deduction from Hume’s own definition 
of a cause, that the very phrase, a first cause,” in- 
volves a contradiction in terms. He lays down that, — 

‘”Tis an established axiom both in natural and moral pliil- 
osophy, that an object, which exists for any time in its full 
perfection without producing another, is not its sole cause ; but 
is assisted by some other piinciple which pushes it from its 
state of inactivity, and makes it exert that energy, of which it 
was secretly possessed.”— (L p. 106 .) 

drawn unconsciously by his own hand, is unlike enough to the 
popular conception of him as a careless sceptic loving doubt for 
doubt’s sake. 


YiiL] THEISM ; EVOLUTION OF THEOLOGY. ‘149 

NTow tLe first cause ’’ is assumed to have existed 
from all eternity, up to the moment at which the uni- 
verse came into existence. Hence it cannot be the sole 
cause of the universe ; in fact, it was no cause at all until it 
was “assisted by some other principle ” ; consequently the 
so-called “ first cause,” so far as it produces the universe, 
is in reality an effect of that other principle. More- 
over, though, in the person of Philo, Hume assumes the 
axiom “that whatever begins to exist must have a 
cause,” which he denies in the Treatise^ he must have 
seen, for a child may see, that the assumption is of no 
real service. 

Suppose Y to be the imagined first cause and Z to 
be its effect. Let the letters of the alphabet, a, 5, c, e, 

g, in their order, represent successive moments of 
time, and let g represent the particular moment at which 
the effect Z makes its appearance. It follows that the 
cause Y could not have existed “in its full perfection” 
during the time a — e, for if it had, then the effect Z 
would have come into existence during that time, which, 
by the hypothesis, it did not do. The cause Y, therefore, 
must have come into existence at /, and if “ everything 
that comes into existence has a cause,” Y must have had 
a cause X operating at e ; X, a cause W operating at d ; 
and, so on, ad infimtum?- 

If the only demonstrative argument for the existence 
of a Deity, which Hume advances, thus, litei'ally, “goes 

^ Kant employs substantially the same argument: — “Wurde 
das hocliste Wesen in dieser Kette der Bedingungen stehen, so 
wixrde es selbst ein Glied der Eeihe derselben sein, und eben so 
wie die niederon Glieder, denen es vorgesetzt ist, noch fernere 
Untersuchungen wegen seines noch hdheren Grundes erfahren. ’ — 
Kritik, Ed. Hartenstein, p. 422. 




150 


HUME. 


[OHA.P. 


to water ” in the solvent of his philosophy, the reasoning 
from the evidence of design does not fare much better 
If Hume really knew of any valid reply to Philos 
arguments in the following passages of the Dialogims, he 
has dealt unfairly by the reader in concealing it : — 

But because I know you are not much swayed by names 
and authorities, I shall endeavour to show you, a little more 
distinctly, tho inconveniences of that Anthropomorphism, 
which you have embraced ; and shall prove, that there is no 
ground to suppose a plan of the world to be formed in the 
Divine mind, consisting of distinct ideas, dijfferently arranged, 
in the same manner as an architect forms in his head the plan 
of a house which he intends to execute. 

“It is not easy, I own, to see what is gained by this sup- 
position, whether we judge the matter by Eeason or by Ex- 
perience. We are still obliged to mount higher, in order to 
find the cause of this cause, which you liad assigned as 
satisfactory and conclusive. 

*‘If Reason (I mean abstract reason, derived from in- 
quiries a priori) hOi not alike mute with regard to all questions 
concerning cause and effect, this sentence at least it will 
venture to pronounce : That a mental world, or universe of 
ideas, requires a cause as much as does a material world, or 
universe of objects; and, if similar in its arrangement, must 
require a similar cause. For what is there in this subject, 
which should occasion a different conclusion or inference? 
In an abstract view, they are entirely alike ; and no difficulty 
attends the one supposition, which is not common to both of 
them. 

Again, when we will needs force Experience to pronounce 
some sentence, even on those subjects which lie beyond her 
sphere, neither can she perceive any material difference in 
this particular, between these two kinds of worlds ; but finds 
them to be governed by similar principles, and to depend 
upon an equal variety of causes in their operations. We 
have specimens in miniature of both of them. Our own 
mind resembles the one ; a vegetable or animal body the 


VIII.] ■ THEISM; ETOLUTIOF OF THEOLOGY. 151 

other. Let experience, therefore, judge from these samples. 
Nothing seems more delicate, with regard to its causes, than 
thought: and as these causes never operate in two persons 
after the same manner, so we never find two persons who 
think exactly alike. Nor indeed does the same person think 
exactly alike at any two different periods of time. A dif- 
ference of age^, of the disposition of his body, of weather, 
of food, of company, of books, of passions; any of these 
particulars, or others more minute, are sufficient to alter the 
curious machinery of thought, and communicate to it very 
different movements and operations. As far as we can judge, 
vegetables and animal bodies are not more delicate in their 
motions, nor depend upon a greater variety or more curious 
adjustment of springs and principles. 

How, therefore, shall we satisfy ourselves concerning the 
cause of that Being whom you suppose the Author of Nature, 
or, according to your system of anthropomorphism, the ideal 
world in which you trace the material? Have we not the 
same reason to trace the ideal world into another ideal world, 
or new intelligent principle? But if we stop and go no 
farther ; why go so far ? Why not stop at the material 
world ? How can we satisfy ourselves without going on in 
infinitum f And after all, what satisfaction is there in that 
infinite progression? Let us remember the story of the 
Indian philosopher and his elephant. It was never more 
applicable than to the present subject. If the material world 
rests upon a similar ideal world, this ideal world must rest 
upon some other ; and so on without end. It were better, 
therefore, never to look beyond the present material world. 
By supposing it to contain the principle of its order wdthin 
itself, we really assert it to be God ; and the sooner we arrive 
at that Divine Being, so much the better. When you go one 
step beyond the mundane system you only excite an inquisitive 
humour, which it is impossible ever to satisfy. 

To say, that the different ideas which compose the reason 
of the Supreme Being, fall into order of themselves and by 
their own natures, is really to talk without any precise mean- 
ing. If it has a meaning, I would fain know why it is not 


152 


HUME. 


[chap. 


as good sense to say, tnat the parts of the material world 
fall into order of themselves, and by their own nature. Gan 
the one opinion be intelligible while the other is not so?” 
— (11. pp. 461— 4.) 

Cleanthes, in replying to Philo’s discourse, says that 
it is very easy to answer his arguments ; but, as not 
unfrequently happens with controversialists, he mistakes 
a reply for an answer, when he declares that — 

The order and arrangement of nature, the carious adjust- 
ment of final causes, the plain use and intention of every part 
and organ ; all these bespeak in the clearest language one 
intelligent cause or author. The heavens and the earth join 
in the same testimony. The whole chorus of nature raises 
one hymn to the praises of its Creator.’^ — (II. p. 465.) 

Though the rhetoric of Cleanthes may be admired, its 
iiTelevancy to the point at issue must be admitted. 
Wandering still further into the region of declamation, 
he works himself into a passion : 

You alone, or almost alone, disturb this general harmony. 
You start abstruse doubts, cavils, and objections : You ask me 
what is the cause of this cause ? I know not : I care not : 
that concerns not me. I have found a Deity ; and here I 
stop my inquiry. Let those go further who are wiser or 
more enterprising.” — (II. p. 466.) 

In other words, O Cleanthes, reasoning having taken 
you as far as you want to go, you decline to advance 
any further ; even though you fully admit that the very 
same reasoning forbids you to stop where you are pleased 
to cry halt! But this is simply forcing your reason to 
abdicate in favour of your caprice. It is impossible to 
imagine that Hume, of all men in the world, could have 
rested satisfied with such an act of high-treason against 



vin.] THEISM; EVOLUTION OF THEOLOGY. 


15S 


the sovereignty of philosophy. We may rather conclude 
that the last word of the discussion, which he gives to 
Philo, is also his own. 

If I am still to remain in utter ignorance of causes, and 
can absolutely give an explication of nothing, I shall never 
esteem it any advantage to shove off for a moment a difS.- 
culty, which, you acknowledge, must immediately, in its 
full force, recur upon me. Naturalists^ indeed very justly 
explain particular effects by more general causes, though 
these general causes should remain in the end totally inex- 
plicable,- but they never surely thought it satisfactory to 
explain a particular effect by a particular cause, which wms no 
more to be accounted for than the effect itself. An ideal 
system, arranged of itself, without a precedent design, is not 
* a whit more explicable than a material one, 'which attains its 
order in a like manner ; nor is tizere any more difficulty in the 
latter supposition than in the former.”— (II. p. 466.) 

It is obvious that, if Hume had been pushed, he must 
have admitted that his opinion concerning the existence 
of a God, and of a certain remote resemblance of bis intel- 
lectual nature to that of man, was an hypothesis which 
might possess more or less probability, but was incapable 
on his own principles of any approach to demonstration. 
And to all attempts to make any practical use of his 
theism; or to prove the existence of the attributes of 
infinite wisdom, benevolence, justice, and the like, 
which are usually ascribed to the Deity, by reason, he 
opposes a searching critical negation. ^ 

The object of the speech of the imaginary Epicurean 
in the eleventh section of the* Inquiry^ entitled Of a 

^ 7. e. Natural philosophers. 

- Humors letter to Mure of Caldwell, containing a criticism of 
Leeehman’s sermon (Burton, I. p. 168), hears strongly on this point. 


154 HUME. [chap. 

Particular Providence and of a Future States is to invert 
the argument of Bishop Butler’s Analogy, 

That famous defence of theology against the a pdori 
scepticism of Freethinkers of the eighteenth century, 
who based their arguments on the inconsistency of the 
revealed scheme of salvation with the attributes of the 
Deity, consists, essentially, in conclusively proving that, 
from a moral point of view, ligature is at least as 
reprehensible as orthodoxy. If you tell me, says 
Butler, in effect, that any part of revealed • religion 
must be false because it is inconsistent with the divine 
attributes of justice and mercy ; I beg leave to point out 
to you, that there are undeniable natural facts which 
are fully open to the same objection. Since you admit 
that nature is the work of God, you are forced to allow 
that such facts are consistent with his attributes. 
Therefc^’65 you must also admit, that the parallel facts in 
tlie scheme ‘of orthodoxy are also consistent with them, 
and all your arguments to the contrary fall to the ground. 
Q.E.D. In fact, the solid sense of Butler left the Deism of 
the Freethinkers not a leg to stand upon. Perhaps, how- 
ever, he did not remember the wise saying that Aman 
seemeth right in his own cause, but another cometh after 
and judgeth him.’^ Hume’s Epicurean philosopher adopts 
the main arguments of the Analogy, but unfortunately 
drives them home to a conclusion of which the good 
Bishop would hardly have approved. 

deny a Providence, you say, and supreme gov'emor of 
the world, who guides the course of events, and punishes the 
vicious with infamy and disappointment, and rewards the 
virtuous wdth honour and success in all their undertakings. 
But surely I deny not the course itself of events, which lies 
open to every one’s inquiry and examination. I acknowledge 



viiL] THEISM ; EYOLUTION OF THEOLOGY. 155 

that, in the present order of things, virtue is attended with 
more peace of mind than vice, and meets with a more favour- 
able reception from the world. I‘ am sensible that, according 
to the past experience of mankind, friendship is the chief joy 
of human life, and moderation the only source of tranquillity 
and happiness. I never balance between the virtuous and the 
vicious course of life ; but am sensible that, to a well-disposed 
mind, every advantage is on the side of the former. And what 
can you say more, allo^dng all your suppositions and reason- 
ings ? You tell me, indeed, that this disposition of things pro- 
ceeds from intelligence and design. But, whatever it proceeds 
from, the disposition itself, on which depends our happiness 
and misery, and consequently oui* conduct and deportment in 
life, is still the same. It is still open for me, as well as you, 
to regulate my behaviour by my experience of past events. 
And if you affirm that, while a divine providence is allowed, 
and a supreme distributive justice in the universe, I ought to 
expect some more particular reward of the good, and punish- 
ment of the bad, beyond the ordinary course of events, I 
here find the same fallacy which I have before endeavoured 
to detect. You persist in imagining, that if we grant that 
divine existence for which you so earnestly contend, you may 
safely infer consequences from it, and add something to the 
experienced order of nature, by arguing from the attributes 
which you ascribe to your gods. You seem not to remember 
that all your reasonings on this subject can only be drawn 
from effects to causes ; and that every argument, deduced from 
causes to effects, must of necessity be a gross sophism, since 
it is impossible for you to know anything of the cause, but 
what you have antecedently not inferred, but discovered to the 
full, in the effect. 

But Avhat must a philosopher think of those vain reasoners 
who, instead of regarding the present scene of things as the 
sole object of their contemplation, so far reverse the whole 
course of nature, as to render this life merely a passage to 
something further ; a porch, which leads to a greater and 
vastly different building ; a prologue which serves only to 
introduce the piece, and give it more grace and propriety ? 


156 


HUME. 


[chap. 


Whence, do you think, can such philosophers derive their 
idea of the gods? From their own conceit and imagination 
surely For if they derive it from the present phenomena 
It would never point, to anything further, but must be exactly 
adjusted to them. That the divinity m&y posdUy be endowed 
with attributes w'hich we have never seen exerted • may be 
pverned by principles of action which we cannot discover to 
be satisfied ; all this will freely be allowed. But still this is 
possiUlity and hypothesis. We never can have reason 
to infer any attnbutes or any principles of action in him but 
so far as we know them to have been exerted and satisfied. 

_ Are there marhs of a distributive justice in the worlds 
If you answer m the aflSrmative, I conclude that, since justice 
here exerts itself, it is satisfied. If you reply in the negative, 
I conclude that you have then no reason to ascribe justice, in 
our sense of it, to the gods. If you hold a medium betwUn 
afcmation and negation, bysaymgthat the justice of the gods 
at present exerts itself in part, but not in its full extent I 

particular 

extent, but only so far as you see it, at present, exert itself." 
(IV. pp. 164 — 6.) 


Thus, the Freethinkers said, the attributes of the 
Deity being what they ai-e, the scheme of orthodoxy is 
inconsistent with them; whereupon Butler gave the 
crushing reply : Agreeing with you as to the attributes 
of the Deity, nature, by its existence, proves that the 
ttogs to which you object are quite consistent with 
them. To whom enters Hume’s Epicurean with the 
remark : Then, as nature is our only measui'e of the 
attebutes of the Deity in their practical manifestation, 
what warranty is there for supposing that such measure 
is anywhere ti-anscended ? That the "other side" of 

mture, if there be one, is governed on different principles 
from this side ? v r 

Truly on this topic silence is golden ; while speech 


VIII.] THEISM ; EVOLUTION OF THEOLOGY. 


157 


reaches not even the dignity of sounding brass or tink- 
ling cymbal, and is but the weary clatter of an endless 
logomachy. One can but suspect that Hume also had 
reached this conviction ; and that his shadowy and in- 
consistent theism was the expression of his desire to 
rest in a state of mind, which distinctly excluded 
negation, while it included as little as possible of affir- 
mation, respecting a problem which he felt to be hope- 
lessly insoluble. 

But, whatever might be the views of the philosopher 
as to the arguments for theism, the historian could 
have no doubt respecting its many-shaped existence, and 
the great part which it has played in the woxdd. Here, 
then, was a body of natural facts to be investigated 
scientifically, and the result of Hume’s inquiries is em- 
bodied in the remarkable essay on the NatuQ'al History 
of Religion. Hume anticipated the results of modern ’ 
investigation in declaring fetishism and polytheism to 
be the form in which savage and ignorant men natu- 
rally clothe their ideas of the unknown influences which 
govern their destiny j and they are polytheists rather 
than monotheists because, — 

. the first ideas of religion arose, not from a 
contemplation of the works of nature, but from a concern 
with regard to the events of life, and from the incessant 
hopes and fears which actuate the humhn mind. . . . 
in order to carry men’s attention beyond the present 
course of things, nr lead them into any inference concerning 
invisible intelligent power, they must be actuated by some 
passion which prompts their thought and reflection, some 
motive which urges their first inquiry. But what passion 
shall we have recourse to, for explaining an efEect of such 
mighty consequence? Not speculative curiosity merely, 
or the pure love of truth. That motive is too refined for 


158 


HUME. 


[chap. 





such gross apprehensions, and would lead men into inquiries 
concerning the frame of nature, a subject too large and com- 
prehensive for their narrow capacities. Ho passions, there- 
fore, can be supposed to work on such barbarians, but the ordin- 
ary affections of human life ; the anxious concern for happiness, 
the dread of future misery, the terror of death, the thirst of 
revenge, the appetite for food and other necessaries. Agitated 
by hopes and fears of this nature, especially the latter, men 
scrutinize, with a trembling curiosity, the course of future 
causes, and examine the various and contrary events of 
human life. And in this disordered scene, with eyes still 
more disordered and astonished, they see the first obscure 
traces of divinity.” — (IV. pp. 443, 4.) 

The shape assumed by these first traces of divinity is 
that of the shadows of men’s own minds, projected out 
of themselves by their imaginations : — 

‘‘There is an universal tendency among mankind to conceive 
all beings like themselves, and to transfer to every object 
those qualities with which they are familiarly acquainted, and 
of which they are intimately conscious. . . . The unTcnowni 
causes wdiich continually employ their thought, appearing 
always in the same aspect, are all apprehended to be of the 
same kind or species. Hor is it long before we ascribe to 
them thought, and reason, and passion, and sometimes even 
the Hmbs and figures of men, in order to bring them nearer 
to a resemblance with ourselves.” — (IV. pp. 446—7.) 

Hume asks whether polytheism really deserves the 
name of theism. 

“Our ancestors in Europe, before the revival of letters, 
believed as we do at present, that there was one supreme 
G-od, the author of nature, whose power, though in itself 
uncontrollable, was yet often exerted by the interposition of 
his angels and subordinate ministers, who executed his sacred 
purposes. But they also believed, that all nature was full of 
other invisible powers; fairies, goblins, elves, sprighfcs; 




viiL] THEISM; EVOLUTION OF THEOLOGY. 159 

beings stronger and mightier than men, but much inferior to 
the celestial natures who surround the throne of God. Now, 
suppose that any one, in these ages, had denied the existence 
of God and of his angels, would not his impiety justly have 
deserved the appellation of atheism, even though he had still 
allowed, by some odd capricious reasoning, that the popular 
stories of elves and fairies were just and well grounded? 
The difference, on the one hand, between such a person and a 
genuine theist, is infinitely greater than that, on the other, 
between him and one that absolutely excludes all invisible 
intelligent power. And it is a fallacy, merely from the casual 
resemblance of names, without any conformity of meaning, 
to rank such opposite opinions under the same denomination. 

‘^To any one w^ho considers justly of the matter, it will 
appear that the gods of the polytheists are no better than the 
elves and fairies of our ancestors, and merit as little as any 
pious .worship and veneration. These pretended religionists 
are really a. kind of superstitious atheists, and acknowledge 
no being that corresponds to our idea of a Deity. No first 
principle of mind or thought ; no supreme government and 
administration ; no divine contrivance or intention in the 
fabric of the world.^’ — (IV. pp. 450 — 51.) 

. The doctrine that you may call an atheist anybody 
whose ideas about the Deity do not correspond with 
your own, is so largely acted upon by persons w^ho are 
certainly not of Hume’s way of thinking and, probably, . 
so far from having read him, would shudder to open 
any book bearing his name, except the History of Eng- 
land, that it is surprising to trace the theory of their 
practice to such a source. 

But on thinking the matter over, this theory seems 
so consonant with reason, that one feels ashamed 
of having suspected many excellent . persons of being 
moved by mere malice and viciousness of temper to call 
other folks atheists, when, after all, they have been 


160 


HUME. 


[chap. 


obejing a purely intellectual sense of fitness. As Hume 
says, truly enough, it is a mere* fallacy, because two 
people use the same names for things, the ideas of which 
are mutually exclusive, to rank such opposite opinions 
under the same denomination. If the Jew says, tlnat 
the Deity is absolute unity, and that it is sheer blas- 
phemy to say that He ever became incarnate in the per- 
son of a man ; and, if the Trinitarian says, that the Deity 
is numerically three as well as numerically one, and 
that it is sheer blasphemy to say that He did not so 
become incarnate, it is obvious enough that each must 
be logically held to deny the existence of the other’s 
Deity. Therefore ; that each has a scientific right to call 
the other an atheist ; and that, if he refrains, it is only 
on the ground of decency and good manners, which 
should restrain an honourable man from employing 
even scientifically justifiable language, if custom has 
given it an abusive connotation. While one must agree 
with Hume, then, it is, nevertheless, to be wished that 
he had not set the bad example of calling polytheists 
superstitious atheists.” It probably did not occui* to 
him that, by a parity of reasoning, the Unitarians might 
justify the application of the same language to the 
Ultramontanes, and vice versd. But, to return from a 
digression which may not be wholly unprofitable, 
Hume proceeds to show in what • manner polytheism 
incorporated physical and moral allegories, and naturally 
accepted hero-worship ; and he sums up his views of 
the first stages of the evolution of theology as follows — 

''These then are the general principles of polytheism, 
founded in human nature, and little or nothing dependent on 
caprice or accident. As the causes which bestow happiness 
or misery, are in general very little known and very uncertain, 


viil] 


THEISM ; EVOLUTION OF THEOLOG'T. 


ui 

our anxious concern endeavours to attain a determinate idea 
of them: and finds no better expedient than to represent 
them ■ as intelligent, voluntary agents, like ourselves, only 
somewhat superior in power and wisdom. The limited in- 
fluence of these agents, and their proximity to human weak- 
ness, introduce the various distribution and division of their 
authority, and thereby give rise to allegory. The same 
principles naturally deify mortals, superior in power, courage, 
or understanding, and produce hero-worship ; together with 
fabulous history and mythological tradition, in all its wild and 
unaccountable forms. And as an invisible spiritual intelligence 
is an object too refined for vulgar apprehension, men natu- 
rally affix it to some sensible representation j such as either 
the more conspicuous parts of nature, or the statues, images, 
and pictures, which a more refined age forms of its divinities.” 
—(17. p, 461.) 

How did the fui^ther stage of theology, monotheism, 
arise out of polytheism ? Hume replies, certainly not 
by reasonings from fix'st causes or any sort of fine-drawn 
logic : — 

Even at this day, and in Europe, ask any of the vulgar 
why he believes in an Omnipotent Creator of the world, he 
will never mention the beauty of final causes, of which he is 
wholly ignorant : He will not hold out his hand and bid you 
contemplate the suppleness and variety of joints in his fingers, 
their bending all one way, the counterpoise which they receive 
from the thumb, the softness and fleshy parts of the inside of 
the hand, with all the other circumstances which render that 
member fit for the use to which it was destined. To these he 
has been long accustomed ; and he beholds them with list- 
lessness and unconcern. He will tell you of the sudden and 
unexpected death of such-a-one; the fall and bruise of such 
another ; the excessive drought of this season ; the cold and 
rains of another. These he ascribes to the immediate operation 
of Providence: And such events as, with good reasoners, are 
the chief difficulties in admitting a Supreme Intelligence, are 
with him the sole arguments for it. ... 


M 



162 


HUME. 


[chap. 


We may conclude therefore, upon the whole, that since 
the vulgar, in nations which have embraced the doctrine of 
theism, still build it upon irrational and superstitious grounds, 
they are never led into that opinion by any process of argu- 
ment, but by a certain train of thinking, more suitable to their 
genius and capacity. 

It may readily happen, in an idolatrous nation, that though 
men admit the existence of several limited deities, yet there 
is some one God, whom, in a particular manner, they make 
the object of their worship and adoration. They may either 
suppose, that, in the distribution of power and territory 
among the Gods, their nation was subjected to the juris- 
diction of that particular deity ; or, reducing heavenly objects 
to the model of things below, they may represent one god as 
the prince or supreme magistrate of the rest, who, though of 
the same nature, rules them with an authority like that which 
an earthly sovereign exerts over his subjects and vassals. 
Whether this god, therefore, be considered as their peculiar 
patron, or as the general sovereign of heaven, his votaries 
will endeavour, by every art, to insinuate themselves into his 
favour ; and supposing him to be pleased, like themselves, 
with praise and flattery, there is no eulogy or exaggeration 
which will be spared in their addresses to him. In proportion 
as men’ s fears or distresses become more urgent, they still 
invent new strains of adulation ; and even he who outdoes 
his predecessor in swelling the titles of his divinity, is sure to 
be outdone by his successor in newer and more pompous 
epithets of praise. Thus they proceed, till at last they 
arrive at infinity itself, beyond which there is no further 
progress ; And it is well if, in striving to get further, and 
to represent a magnificent simplicity, they run not into in- 
explicable mystery, and destroy the intelligent nature of their 
deity, on which alone any rational worship or adoration can 
be founded. While they confine themselves to the notion of 
a perfect being, the Creator of the world, they coincide, by 
chance, with the principles of reason and true philosophy ; 
though they are guided to that notion, not by reason, of 
which they are in a great measure incapable, but by the 


vrir.] THEISM ; EYOLUTIOH OF THEOLOGY. 


163 


adulation and fears of the most vulgar superstition.” (IV. 
pp. 463^6.) 

Nay, if we should suppose, what never happens, that a 
popular religion were found, in which it was expressly de- 
clared, that nothing but morality could gain the divine favour ; 
if an order of priests were instituted to inculcate this opinion, 
in daily sermons, and with all the arts of persuasion ; yet so 
inveterate are the people’s prejudices, that, for want of some 
other superstition, they would make the very attendance on 
these sermons the essentials of religion, rather than place 
them in virtue and good morals. The sublime prologue of 
Zaleucus' laws inspired not the Locrians, so far as we can 
learn, with any sounder notions of the measures of acceptance 
with the deity, than were familiar to the other Greeks.” — 
(IV. p. 505.) « 

It has been remarked that Hume’s writings are sin- 
gularly devoid of local colour ; of allusions to the scenes 
with which he was familiar, and to the people from whom 
he sprang. Yet, surely, the Lowlands of Scotland were 
more in his thoughts than the Zephyrean promontory, 
and the hard visage of J ohn Knox peered from behind 
the mask of Zaleucus, when this passage left his 
pen. Kay, might not an acute German critic discern 
therein a reminiscence of that eminently Scottish insti- 
tution, a Holy Fair”? where as Hume’s young con- 
temporary sings : — 

icti t ^ opens out his cauld harangues 
On practice and on morals ; 

An’ aff the godly pour in thrangs 
To gie the jars and barrels 
A lift that day. 

What signifies his barren shin© 

Of moral powers and reason ? 

M 2 


164 


HUME. 


[CH. VIIX. 


His English style and gesture fine 
Are a’ clean out of season. 

Like Socrates or Antonine, 

Or some auld pagan heathen, 

The moral man he does define, 

But ne’ er a word o’ faith in 

That’s right that day.” ^ 


^ Burns published the Holy Fair only ten years after Hume’s 
death. 



CHAPTEB IX. 



fBE SOUL : THE DOCTRINE OF IMMORTALITY. 

Descartes taught that an absolute difference of kind 
separates matter, as that which possesses extension, from 
spirit, as that which thinks. They not only have no 
character in common, but it is inconceivable that they 
should have any. On the assumption, that the attributes 
of the two were wholly different, it appeared to be a 
necessary consequence that the hypothetical causes of 
these attributes — their respective substances — must be 
totally different. Xotably, in the matter of divisibility, 
since that which has no extension cannot be divisible, 
it seemed that the chose pensante, the soul, must be an 
indivisible entity. 

Later philosophers, accepting this notion of the soul, 
were naturally much perplexed to understand how, if 
matter and spirit had nothing in common, they could act 
and react on one another. All the changes of matter being 
modes of motion, the difficulty of understanding how a 
moving extended material body was to affect a thinking 
thing which had no dimension, was as great as that 
involved in solving the problem of how to hit a 
nominative case with a stick. Hence, the successors of 
Descartes either found themselves obliged, with the 


I 


I 


If 

§ 

i 

w 

lb:: 


166 


HUME. 




Occasionalists, to call in the aid of the Deity, who wag 
supposed to be a sort of go-between betwixt matter and 
spirit j or they had recourse, with Leibnitz, to the doc- 
trine of pre-established harmony, which denied any influ- 
ence of the body on the soul, or vice versa, and compared 
matter and spiidt to two clocks so accurately regulated 
to keep time with one another, that the one stiuick when 
ever the other pointed to the hour ; or, with Berkeley, 
they abolished the substance of matter altogether, as 
a superfluity, though they failed to see that the same 
arguments equally justified the abolition of soul as 
another superfluity, and the reduction of the universe 
to a series of events or phenomena; or, finally, with 
Spinoza, to whom Berkeley makes a perilously close 
approach, they asserted the existence of only one sub- 
stance, with two chief attributes, the one, thought, and 
the other, extension. 

There remained only one possible position, which, had 
it been taken up earlier, might have saved an immensity 
of trouble ; and that was to affirm that we do not, and 
cannot, know anything about the substance either of 
the thinking thing, or of the extended thing. And 
Hume’s sound common sense led him to defend this 
thesis, which Locke had already foreshadowed, with 
respect to the question of the substance of the soul. 
Hume enunciates two opinions. The first is that the 
question itself is unintelligible, and therefore cannot 
receive any answer ; the second is that the poptilar 
doctrine respecting the immateriality, simplicity, and 
indivisibility of a thinking substance is a true atheism, 
and will serve to justify all those sentiments for which 
Spinoza is so universally infamous.” 

In support of the first opinion, Hume points out that 


IX.] THE SOUL: THE DOGTRINE OE IMMORTALITY. 167 

it is impossible to attacii any definite meaning to the 
word substance ” when employed for the ^hypothetical 
substratum of soul and matter. For if we define 
substance as that which may exist by itself, the defini- 
tion does not distinguish the soul from perceptions. It 
is perfectly easy to conceive that states of consciousness 
are self-subsistent. And, if the substance of the soul 
is defined as that in which perceptions inhere, what is 
meant by the inherence ? Is such inherence conceivable 
If conceivable, what evidence is there of it ? And what 
is the use of a substratum to things which, for anything 
we know to the contrary, are capable of existing by 
themselves ? 

Moreover, it may be added, supposing the soul has a 
substance, how do we know that it is different from the 
substance, which, on like grounds, must be supposed 
to underHe the qualities of matter? 

Again, if it be said that our personal identity requires 
the assumption of a substance which remains the same 
while the accidents of perception shift and change, the 
question arises what is meant by personal identity ? 

“ For my part,’ ’ says Hume, when I enter most Inti- 
mately into what 1 call myself ^ I always stumble on some par- 
ticular perception or other, of heat or cold, light or shade, 
love or hatred, pain or pleasure. I never can catch myself 
at any time without a perception, and never can observe any- 
thing but the perception. When my perceptions are removed 
for any time,’ as by sound sleep, so long am I insensible of 
myself and may be truly said not to exist. And were all my 
perceptions removed by death, and 1 could neither think, nor 
feel, nor see, nor love, nor hate, after the dissolution of my 
body, I should be entirely annihilated, nor do I conceive what 
is further requisite to make me a perfect nonentity. If any 
one, upon serious and unprejudiced reflection, thinks he has 


168 


HUMK 


[CHAE 


a different notion of Mmself, I must confess I can reason no 
longer with him. All I can allow him is, that he naay be in 
the right as well as I, and that we are essentially different in 
this particular. He may perhaps perceive something simple 
and continued which he calls himself, though I am certain 
there is no such principle in me. 

But setting aside some metaphysicians of this kind, I may 
venture to affirm of the rest of mankind, that they are nothing 
but a bundle or collection of different perceptions, which suc- 
ceed one another with an inconceivable rapidity, and are in a 
perpetual flux and movement . . . The mind is a kind of 
theatre, where several perceptions successively make their 
appearance, pass, repass, glide away, and mingle in an infinite 
variety of postures and situations. There is properly no 
sirwplieity in it at one time, nor identity in different, whatever 
natural propension we may have to imagine that simplicity 
and identity. The comparison of the theatre xnuvst not mislead 
us. They are the successive perceptions only tliat constitute 
the mind ; nor have we the most distant notion of the place 
where these scenes are represented, or of the materials of 
which it is composed. 

^^What then gives so great a propension to ascribe an 
identity to these successive perceptions, and to suppose our- 
selves possessed of an invariable and uninterrupted existence 
through the whole course of our lives? In order to answer 
this question, we must distinguish between personal identity 
as it regards our thought and imagination, and as it regards 
our passions, or the concern we take in ourselves. The first 
is our present subject ; and to explain it perfectly we must 
take the matter pretty deep, and account for that identity 
which we attribute to plants and animals ; tliere being a great 
analogy betwixt it and the identity of a self or person.’ —(I, 
pp. 321, 322.) 

Perfect identity is exhibited by an object which 
remains unchanged throughotit a certain time ; perfect 
diversity is seen in two or more objects which are 
separated by intervals of space and periods of time. 



IX.] THE SOTJL ; THE BOCTEIHE OF IMMORTALITY. 169 


But, in both these cases, there is no sharp line of 
demarcation between identity and diversity, and it is 
impossible to say when an object ceases to be one and 
becomes two. 

When a sea-anemone multiplies by division, there is 
a bime during which it is said to be one animal partially 
divided; but, after a while, it becomes two animals 
adherent together, and the limit between these conditions 
is purely arbitrary. So in mineralogy, a ci'ystal of a 
definite chemical composition may have its substance 
replaced, particle by particle, by another chemical com- 
pound. When does it lose its primitive identity and 
become a new thing ? 

Again, a plant or an animal, in the course of its 
existence, from the condition of an egg or seed to the 
end of life, remains the same neither in form, nor in 
structure, nor in the matter of which it is composed : 
every attribute it possesses is constantly changing, and 
yet we say that it is always one and the same indi- 
vidual. And if, in this case, we attribute identity 
without supposing an indivisible immaterial something 
to underlie and condition that identity, why should we 
need the supposition in the case of that succession of 
changeful phenomena we call the mind ?• 

In fact, we ascribe identity to an individual plant or 
animal, simply because thei'G has been no moment of 
time at which we could observe any division of it into 
parts separated by time or space. Every experience 
we have of it is as one thing and not as two ; and "we 
sum up our expeiiences in the ascription of identity, 
although we know quite well that, strictly speaking, it 
has not been the same for any two moments. 

So with the mind. Our perceptions flow in even 


170 


HUME. 


[chap. 


succession ; the impressions of the present moment are 
inextricably mixed up with the memories of yesterday 
and the expectations of to-morrow, and all are connected 
by the links of cause and effect. 

. . as the same individual republic may not only 
change its members, but also its laws and constitutions ; in like 
manner the same person may vary his character and disposi- 
tion, as well as his impressions and ideas, without losing his 
identity. Whatever changes he endures, his several parts are 
still connected by the relation of causation. And in this view 
our identity with regard to the passions serves to corroborate 
that with regard to the imagination, by the making our 
distant perceptions influence each other, and by giving us a 
present concern for our past or future pains or pleasures. 

As memory alone acquaints us with the continuance and 
extent of this succession of perceptions, tis to be considered, 
upon that account chiefly, as the source of personal identity. 
Had we no memory we never should have any notion of 
causation, nor consequently of that chain of causes and 
efEects which constitute our self or person. But having once 
acquired this notion of causation from the memory, we can 
extend the same chain of causes, and consequently the identity 
of our persons, beyond our memory, and can comprehend 
times, and circumstances, and actions, which wo have entirely 
forgot, but suppose in general to have existed. For how few 
of our past actions are there of which we have any memory? 
Who can tell me, for instance, what were his tlioughts and 
actions on the first of January, 1715, the eleventh of Marcli, 
1719, and the third of August, 1733? Or will he affirm, 
because he has entirely forgot the incidents of those days, 
that the present self is not the same person with the self of 
that time, and by that means overturn all the most establislied 
notions of personal identity ? In this view, tlierefore, meniory 
does not so much produce as discover personal identity, by 
showing us the relation of cause and effect among our 
different perceptions. ’Twill be incumbent on those who 
affirm that memory produces entirely our personal identity, 


rx.l THE SOUL : THE DOCTEIHE OF IMMOETALITY. ITl 

to give a reason why ]ve can thus extend our identity beyond 
our memory. 

‘^The whole of this doctrine leads us to a conclusion which 
is of great importance in the present aifair, viz. that all the 
nice and subtle questions concerning personal identity can 
never possibly be decided, and are to be regarded rather as 
grammatical than as philosophical difSculties. Identity de- 
pends on the relations of ideas, and these relations produce 
identity by means of that easy transition they occasion. But 
as the relations, and the easiness of the transition may diminish 
by insensible degrees, w^e have no just standard by which we 
can decide any dispute concerning the time when they acquire 
or lose a title to the name of identity. All the disputes con- 
cerning the identity of connected objects are merely verbal, 
except so far as the relation of parts gives rise to some 
fiction or imaginary principle of union, as we have already 
observed. 

What I have said concerning the first origin and uncer- 
tainty of our notion of identity, as applied to the human mind 
may be extended, with little or no variation, to that of sim- 
plicity. An object, whose different co-existent parts are bound 
together by a close relation, operates upon the imagination 
after much the same manner as one perfectly simple and 
undivisible, and requires not a much greater stretch of 
thought in order to its conception. From this similarity of 
operation we attribute a simplicity to it, and feign a principle 
of union as the support of this simplicity, and the centre of all 
the different parts and qualities of the object.’^ — (I. pp. 331 — 3.) 

The final result of Hume's reasoning comes to this : 
As we use the name of body for the sum of the 
phenomena which make up our corporeal existence, so we 
employ the name of soul for the sum of the phenomena 
vrhich constitute our mental existence ; and we have no 
more reason, in the latter case, than in the former, to sup- 
pose that there is anything beyond the phenomena which 
answers to the name. In the case of the soul, as in that 


172 


HTJME. 


[CH AP. 


o£ the body, the idea of substance is a mere fiction of 
the imagination. This conclusion is nothing but a 
rigorous application of Berkeley’s reasoning concerning 
matter to mind, and it is fully adopted by Kant.^ 

Having arrived at the conclusion that the conception 
of a soul, as a substantive thing, is a mere figment of the 
imagination ; and that, whether it exists or not, we can 
by no possibility know anything about it, the inquiry 
as to the durability of the soul may seem superfluous. 

ITevertheless, there is still a sense in which, even 
under these conditions, such an inquiry is justifiable. 
Leaving aside the problem of the substance of the soul, 
and taking the word soul ” simply as a name for 
the series of mental phenomena which make up an 
individual mind ; it remains open to us to ask, whether 
that series commenced with, or before, the series of 
phenomena which constitute the corresponding indi- 
vidual body ; and whether it terminates with the end of 
the corporeal series, or goes on after the existence of 
the body has ended. And, in both cases, there arises 
the further question, whether the excess of duration of 
the mental series over that of the body, is finite or 
infinite. 

Hume has discussed some of these questions in. the 
remarkable essay On the Immortality of the which 
was not published till after his death, and which seems 
long to have remained but little known. Nevertheless, 
indeed, possibly, for that reason, its influence has been 

^ '' Our internal intuition shows no permanent existence, for the 
Ego is only the consciousness of my thinking. ” “ There is no means 
whatever hy which we can learn anything respecting the constitu- 
tion of the soul, so far as regards the possibility of its separate 
existence.”— m% dm laralogisrmn der reine9i Vernunft, 



IX.] 


THE DOCTBTNE OF IMMORTALITY. 


173 


manifested in unexpected quarters, and its main argu- 
ments Lave been adduced by arcMepiscopal and episcopal 
authority in evidence of the value of revelation. Dr. 
WLately,^ sometime Ai’chbishop of Dublin, paraphrases 
Hume, though he forgets to cite him; and Bishop 
Courtenay’s elaborate work,^ dedicated to the Arch- 
bishop, is a development of that prelate’s version of 
Hume’s essay. 

This little paper occupies only some ten pages, but it 
is not wonderful that it attracted an acute logician like 
Whately, for it is a model of clear and vigorous state- 
ment. The argument hardly admits of condensation, so 
that I must let Hume speak for himself : — 

By the mere light of reason it seems difficult to prove the 
immortality of the soul: the arguments for it are commonly 
derived either fi-om metaphysical topics, or moral, or pliysical. 
But in reality it is the gospel, and the gospel alone, that has 
brought life and immortality to light.® 

Metaphysical topics suppose that the soul is immaterial, 
and that ’tis impossible for thought to belong to a material 


^ Essays on Some of the Eemliarities of the Christian Religion^ 
(Essay T. Revelation of a Future State), by Richard Whately, 
B.I)., Archbishop of Dublin. Fifth Edition, revised, 1846. 

^ The Future States : their Emdences and Nature ; eonshdered on 
Principles Physical, Moral, and Scriptural, with the Design of 
showing the Value of the Gospel Revelation by the Right Rev- 
Reginald Courtenay, D.D., Lord Bishop of Kingston (Jamaica), 
1857. 

^ “How that Mesus Christ brought life and immortality to light 
through the Gospel,’ and that in the most literal sense, which 
implies that the revelation of the doctrine is peculiar to His Gospel, 
seems to he at least the most ohvions meaning of the Scriptures .of 
the Hew Testament.” — ^Whately, l,c, p. 27. 


174 


HUME. 


[CIIAF, 


substance. 1 But just metaphysics teach us that the notion of 
substance is wholly confused and imperfect ; and that we have 
no other idea of any substance, than as an aggregate of par- 
ticular qualities inhering in an unknown something. Matter, 
therefore, and spirit, are at bottom equally unknown, and we 
cannot determine what qualities inhere in the one or in the 
other. 2 They likewise teach us, that nothing can be decided 
a ‘priori concerning any cause or effect ; and that experience, 
being the only source of our judgments of this nature, we 
cannot know from any other principle, whether matter, by its 
structure or arrangement, may not be the cause of thought. 
Abstract reasonings cannot “decide any question of fact or 
existence. But admitting a spiritual substance to be dispersed 
throughout the universe, like the ethereal fire of the Stoics, 
and to be the only inherent subject of thought, we have 
reason to conclude from analogy, that nature uses it after the 
manner she does the other substance, matter. She employs 
it as a kind of paste or clay ; mndifies it into a variety of forms 
or existences ; dissolves after a time each modification, and 
from its substance erects a new form. As the same material 
substance may successively compose the bodies of all animals, 
the same spiritual substance may compose their minds : Their 
consciousness, or that system of thought which they formed 
during life, may be continually dissolved by death, and 
nothing interests them in the new modification. The most 
positive assertors of the mortality of the soul never denied 
the immortality of its substance ; and that an immaterial 


^ Compare, Of the Immateriality of the Soul, Section V, of Part 
ly., Book I., of the Treatise, in which Hume concludes (L p. 319) 
that, whether it be material or immaterial, “in both cases the meta- 
physical arguments for the immortality of the soul are equally 
inconclusive ; and in both cases the moral arguments and those 
derived from the analogy of nature are equally strong and con- 
vincing.” 

^ “ The question again respecting the materiality of the soul is 
one which I am at a loss to understand clearly, till it shall have been 
clearly detenmined what matter is. We know nothing of it, any 
more than of mind, except its attributes.” — ^Whately, lx, p. 66. 



IX.] 


THE DOCTEIHE OF IMMOETALITY. 


175 


substance, as well as a material, may lose its memory or con- 
sciousness, appears in part from experience, if the soul be 
immaterial. Eeasoning from the common course of nature, 
and without supposing any new interposition of the Supreme 
Cause, which ought always to be excluded from philosophy, 
what is incorruj^tible must also he ingenemlle. The soul, there- 
fore, if immortal, existed before our birth, and if the former 
existence noways concerned us, neither will the latter. 
Animals undoubtedly feel, think, love, hate, will, and even 
reason, though in a more imperfect manner than men : Are 
their souls also immaterial and immortal ? ^ 

Hume next proceeds to consider the moral arguments, 
and chiedy 

' . those derived from the justice of God, which is sup- 

posed to be further interested in the future punishment of 
the vicious and reward of the virtuous. 

But if by the justice of God we mean the same 
attribute which we call justice in ourselves, then why 
should either reward or punishment be extended beyond 
this life '2 ^ Our sole means of knowing anything is the 

^ of those who contend for the natural immortality of 

the soul . . . have been able to extricate themselves from one 
difficulty, viz. that all their arguments' ripply, with exactly the 
same force, to prove an immortality, not only of Irutes^lyat even of 
•plants ; though in such a conclusion as this they arc never willing 
to acquiesce.’* — ^Whately, l.c. p. 67. 

^ **17or are we therefore authorised to infer d priorlt independent 
of Kevelation, a future state of retribution, from the irregularities 
prevailing in the present life, since that future state does not 
account fully for these irregularities. It may explain, indeed, how 
present evil may be conducive to future good, but not why the 
good could not be attained without the evil ; it may reconcile with 
our notions of the divine justice the present prosperity of the 
wicked, but it does not account for the existence of the wicked.” 
— ^Whately, l.c, pp. 69, 70. 


176 


HUME. 


[chap. 


reasoning faculty wMcb. God has given us; and that 
reasoning faculty not only denies us any conception of 
a future state, but fails to furnish a single valid 
argument in favour of the belief that the mind will 
endure after the dissolution of the body. 

. . If any purpose of nature be clear, we may afarm 
that the whole scope and intention of man’s creation, so far 
as we can judge by natural reason, is limited to the present 
life.” 

To the argument that the powers of man are so much 
greater than the needs of this life require, that they 
suggest a futui'e scene in which they can be employed, 
Hume replies : — 

m 

If the reason of man gives him great superiority above 
other animals, his necessities are proportionably multiplied 
upon him ; his whole time, his whole capacity, activity, 
courage, and passion, j&nd sufidcient employment in fencing 
against the miseries of his present condition ; and frequently, 
nay, almost always, are too slender for the business assigned 
them. A pair of shoes, perhaps, was never yet wrought to 
the highest degree of perfection that commodity is capable 
of attaining ; yet it is necessary, at least very useful, that there 
should be some politicians and moralists, even some geo- 
meters, poets and philosophers, among mankind. The powers 
of men are no more superior to their wants, considered 
merely in this life, than those of foxes and hares are, coni“ 
pared to tMr wants and to their period of existence. The 
inference from parity of reason is therefore obvious.” 

In short, Hume argues that, if the faculties with 
which we are endowed are unable to discover a future 
state, and if the most attentive consideration of their 
nature serves to show that they are adapted to this life 
and nothing more, it is surely inconsistent with any 



THE BOCTEIHE OF IMMOETALITY. 


17T 


DC.] 

conception of justice that we should be dealt with, as if 
we had all along had a clear knowledge of the fact thus 
carefully concealed from us. What should we think of 
the justice of a father, who gave his son every reason to 
suppose that a trivial fault would only be visited by a 
box on the ear ; and then, years afterwards, put him on 
the rack for a week for the same fault 1 

Again, the suggestion arises, if God is the cause of all 
things, he is responsible for evil as well as for good ; and 
it appears utterly irreconcilable with our notions of jus- 
tice that he should punish another for that which he 
has, in fact, done himself. Moreover, just punishment 
bears a proportion to the offence, while suffering which 
is infinite is ipso facto disproportionate to any finite 
deed.^ 

Why then eternal punishment for the temporary offences 
of so frail a creature as man ? Can any one approve of Alex- 
anders' rage, who intended to exterminate a whole nation 
because they had seized his favourite horse Bucephalus ? 

Heaven and hell suppose two distinct species of men, 
the good and the bad ; but the greatest part of mankind float 
betwixt vice and virtue. Were one to go round the world 
with the intention of giving a good supper to the righteous 
and a sound drubbing to the wicked, he would freq^uently be 
embarrassed in his choice, and would find the merits and de- 
merits of most men and women scarcely amount to the value 
o£ either.”^ 


^ “ So reason also shows, that for man to expect to earn for him- 
self by the practice of virtue, and claim, as his just right, -an im- 
mortality of exalted happiness, is a most extravagant and ground- 
less pretension.’’ — ^Whately, l.c. p. 101. On the other hand, how- 
ever, the Archbishop sees no unreasonableness in a man’s earning for 
himself an immortahty of intense unhappiness by the practice of vice. 
So that life is, naturally, a venture in which you may lose all, hut 


178 


HUME. 


[chap. 


One can but admire the broad humanity and the in- 
sight into the springs of action manifest in this passage. 
Gom^rendre est d moitie pardonner. The more one knows 
of the real conditions which determine men’s acts the 
less one finds either to praise or blame. For kindly 
David Hume, ^^the damnation of one man is an infinitely 
greater evil in the universe than the subversion of a 
thousand million of kingdoms.” And he would have 
felt with his countryman Burns, that even “ auld 
Nickie Ben ” should “ hae a chance.” 

As against those who reason for the necessity of a 
future state, in order that the justice of the Deity may 
be satisfied, Hume’s ai'gumentation appears unanswerable. 
For if the justice of God resembles what we mean by 
justice, the bestowal of infinite happiness for finite\^ell- 
doing and infinite misery for finite ill-doing, it is in no 
sense just. And, if the justice of God does not resemble 
what we mean by justice, it is an abuse of language to 
employ the name of justice for the attribute described 
by it. But, as against those who choose to argue that 
thei'e is nothing in what is known to us of the attributes 
of the Deity inconsistent with a future state of rewards 
and punishments, Hume’s pleadings have, no force. 
Bishop Butlei'’s argument that, inasmuch as the visita- 
tion of our acts by rewards and punishments takes place 
in this life, rewards and punishments must be consistent 
with the attributes of the Deity, and therefore may go 
on as long as the mind endures, is unanswei'able. What- 
ever exists is, by the hypothesis, existent by the will of 
God; and, therefore, the pains and pleasures which 

can earn nothing. It may he thought somewhat hard upoii man- 
kind if they are pushed into a speculation of this sort, willy - 
■CixlJty. , 


IX.] 


THE DOCTEINE OP TMMOETALITY. 


179 


exist now may go on existing for all eternity, either 
increasing, diminishing, or being endlessly varied in 
their intensity, as they are now. 

It is remarkable that Hume does not refer to the 
sentimental arguments for the immortality of the soul 
which are so much in vogue at the present day ; and 
which are based upon our desire for a longer conscious 
existence than that which nature appears to have 
allotted to us. Perhaps he did not think them worth 
notice. For indeed it is not a little strange, that our 
strong desire that a certain occurrence should happen 
should be put forward as evidence that it will happen. 
If my intense desire to see the friend, from whom I 
have parted, does not bring him from the other side of 
the ^Vorld, or take me thither ; if the mother‘'s agonised 
prayer that her child should live has not prevented 
him from dying; experience certainly affords no pre- 
sumption that the strong desire to be alive after 
death, which we call the aspiration after immortality, 
is any more likely to be gratified. As Hume truly says, 

All doctrines are to be suspected which are favoured 
by our passions f and the doctrine, that we are immortal 
because we should extremely like to be so, contains the 
quintessence of suspiciousness. 

In respect of the existence and attributes of the soul, 
as of those of the Deity, then, logic is powerless and 
reason silent. At the most we can get no further than 
the conclusion of Kant 

After we have satisfied ourselves of the vanity of all the 
ambitious attempts of reason to fly beyond the bounds of 
experience, enough remains of practical value to content us. 
It is true that no one may boast that he knows that God 
and a future life exist; for, if he possesses such know- 

N 2 


180 


HUME. 


[chap. 


ledge, he is just the man for whom I have long been seeking. 
All knowledge (touching an object of mere reason) can be 
communicated, and therefore I might hope to see my own 
knowledge increased to this prodigious extent, by his instruc- 
tion. No ; our conviction in these matters is not logical, but 
moral certainty ; and, inasmuch as it rests upon subjective 
grounds, (of moral disposition) I must not even say: it i$ 
morally certain that there is a God, and so on ; but, I am 
morally certain, and so on. That is to say : the belief in a 
God and in another world is so interwoven -with my moral 
nature, that the former can no more vanish, than the latter 
can ever be torn from me. 

The only point to be remarked here is that this act of 
faith of the intellect {Vemur^tglaube) assumes the existence 
of moral dispositions. If we leave them aside, and suppose a 
mind quite indifferent to moral la"ws, the inquiry started by 
reason becomes merely a subject for speculation ; and [the 
conclusion attained] may then indeed be supported by strong 
arguments from analogy, but not by such as are competent 
to overcome persistent scepticism. 

“ There is no one, however, who can fail to be interested in 
these questions. For, although he may be excluded from 
moral influences by the want of a good disposition, yet, even 
in this case, enough remains to lead him to fear a divine exist- 
ence and a future state. To this end, no more is necessary 
than that he can at least have no certainty that there is no 
such being, and no future life ; for, to make this conclusion 
demonstratively certain, he must be able to prove the im- 
possibility of both ; and this assuredly no rational man can 
undertake to do. This negative belief, indeed, cannot pro- 
duce either morality or good dispositions, but can operate in 
an analogous fashion, by powerfully repressing the outbreak 
of evil tendencies. 

^^But it will be said, is this all that Pure Eeason can 
do when it gazes out beyond the bounds of experience ? 
Nothing more than two articles of faith? Common sense 
could acMeve as much without calling the philosophers to its 
counsels! 



IX.] THE SOUL: THE DOCTRINE OF IMMORTALITY. 181 



I will not here speak of the service which philosophy has 
rendered to human reason by the laborious efforts of its 
criticism, granting that the outcome proves to he merely 
negative : about that matter something is to be said in the 
following section. But do you tjien ask, that the know- 
ledge which interests all men shall transcend the common 
understanding and be discovered for you only by philoso- 
phers ? The very thing which you make a reproach, is the 
best confirmation of the justice of the previous conclusions, 
since it shows that which could not, at first, have been anti- 
cipated ; namely, that in those matters which concern all 
men alike, nature is not guilty of distributing her gifts with 
partiality ; and that the highest philosophy, in dealing with 
the most important concerns of humanity, is able to take 
us no further than the guidance which she affords to the 
commonest understanding.” ^ 

In short, nothing can be proved or disproved, respect- 
ing either the distinct existence, the substance, or the 
durability of the soul. So far, Kant is at one with 
Hume. But Kant adds, as you cannot disprove the im- 
mortality of the soul, and as the belief therein is very 
useful for moral purposes, you may assume it. To 
which, had Hume lived half a century later, he would 
probably have replied, that, if morality has no better 
foundation than an assumption, it is not likely to bear 
much strain ; and, if it has a better foundation, the 
assumption rather weakens than strengthens it. 

As has been already said, Hume is not content 
with denying that we know anything about the exist- 
ence or the nature of the soul ; but he carries the war 
into the enemy’s camp, and accuses those who affirm the 
immateriality, simplicity, and indivisibility of the 
thinking substance, of atheism and Spinozism, which 
are assumed to be convertible terms. . 

1 Kritih der reineifi Verwimft. Ed. Hartsnstein, p. 547. 


182 


HUME. 


[CH. IZ, 


The method of attack is ingenious. Observation 
appears to acquaint us with two different systems of 
beingSj and both Spinoza and orthodox philosophers 
agree, that the necessary substratum of each of these is 
a substance, in which the phenomena adhere, or of which 
they are attributes or modes. 

I observe first the universe of objects or of body; the 
sun, moon, and stars ; the earth, seas, plants, animals, men, 
ships, houses, and other productions either of art or of 
nature. Here Spinoza appears, and tells me that these are 
only modifications and that the subject in which they inhere 
is simple, uncompounded, and indivisible. After this I con- 
sider the other system of beings, viz. the universe of thought, .. 
or my impressions and ideas. Then I observe another sun, 
moon, and stars ; an earth and seas, covered and inhabited by 
plants and animals, towns, houses, mountains, rivers; and, in 
short, everything I can discover or conceive in the first system. 
Upon my inquiring concerning these, theologians present 
themselves, and tell me that these also are modifications, and 
modifications of one simple, uncompounded, and indivisible 
substance. Immediately upon which I am deafened with the 
noise of a hundred voices, that treat the first hypothesis with 
detestation and scorn, and the second with applause and vene- 
ration. I turn my attention to these hypotheses to see what 
may be the reason of so great a partiality ; and find that they 
have the same fault of being unintelligible, and that, as far 
as we can. understand them, they are so much alike, that ’tis 
impossible to discover any absurdity in one, which is not com- 
mon to both of them,” — (I. p. 309. ) 

For the manner in which Hume makes his case good, 
I must refer to the original. Plain people may rest 
satisfied that both hypotheses are unintelligible, without 
plunging any further among syllogisms, the premisses 
of which convey no meaning, while the conclusions carry 
no conviction. 


CHAPTER X. 


VOLITION : LIBEETY AND NECESSITY. 

In tlie opening paragraphs of the third part of the 
second hook of the Treatise, Hume gives a description 
of the 'will. 

Of all the immediate ejBEects of pain and pleasure there is 
none more remarkable than the will; and though, properly 
speaking, it he not comprehended among the passions, yet as 
the full understanding of its nature and properties is neces- 
sary to the explanation of them, we shall here make it the 
subject of our inquiry. I desire it may be observed, that, by 
the willy I mean nothing but the internal imjpression we feely 
and are conscious of, when we hnowingly give rise to any new 
motion of our body^ or new perception of our mind. This im- 
I)ression, like the preceding ones of pride and humility, love 
and hatred, His impossible to define, and needless to describe 
any further.” — (II. p. 150.) 

This description of volition maybe criticised on various 
grounds; More especially does it seem defective in 
restricting the term will ” to that feeling which arises 
when we act, or appear to act, as causes : for one may 
will to strike, without striking ] or to think of something 
which we have forgotten. 

Every volition is a complex idea composed of two 
elements : the one is the idea of an action ; the other is 


184 


HUME. 


[OHAI». 


a desire for the occurrence of that action. If I will to 
strike, I have an idea of a certain movement, and a desire 
that that movement should take place ; if I will to think 
of any subject, or, in other words, to attend to that sub- 
ject, I have an idea of the subject and a strong desire 
that it should remain present to my consciousness. And 
so far as I can discover, this combination of an idea of 
an object with an emotion, is everything that can be 
directly observed in an act of volition. So that Hume^s 
definition may be amended thus : Yolition is the impres- 
sion which arises wheii the idea of a bodily or mental 
action is accompanied by the desire that the action 
should be accomplished. It differs from other desires 
simply in the fact, that we regard oui'selves as possible 
causes of the action desired. 

Two questions arise, in connexion with the observation 
of the phenomenon of volition, as they arise out of the 
contemplation of all other natural phenomena. Firstly, 
has it a cause ; and, if so, what is its cause ? Secondly, 
is it followed by any e&’ect, and if so, what effect does it 
produce '? 

Hume points out, that the nature of the phenomena 
we consider can have nothing to do with the origin of 
the conception that they are connected by the relation 
of cause and effect. For that relation is nothing but an 
order of succession, which, so far as our experience goes, 
is invariable i and it is obvious that the nature of pheno- 
mena has nothing to do with their order. Whatever it 
is that leads us to seek for a cause for every event, in the 
case of the phenomena of the external world, compels us, 
with equal cogency, to seek it in that of the mind. 

The only meaning of the law of causation, in the 
physical world, is, that it genei'alises universal experience 


VOLITION : LIBEETY AND NECESSITY. 185 

of tke order of that world; and, if experience sEows a 
similar order to obtain among states of consciousness, 
the law of causation will properly express that order. 

That such an order exists, however, is acknowledged 
by every sane man : 

“ Our idea, therefore, of necessity and causation, arises 
entirely from the uniformity observable in the operations of 
nature, where similar objects are constantly conjoined together, 
and the mind is determined by custom to infer the one from 
the appearance of the other. These two circumstances form 
the whole of that necessity which we ascribe to matter. Be- 
yond the constant compunction of similar objects and the con- 
sequent inference from one to the other, we have no notion 
of any necessity of connexion. 

'^If it appear, therefore, what ah mankind have ever 
allowed, without any doubt or hesitation, that these two cir- 
cumstances take place in the voluntary actions of men, and in 
the operations of mind, it must foEow that all mankind have 
ever agreed in the doctrine of necessity, and that they have 
hitherto disputed merely from not understanding each other.’’ 
-(IV. P.97,) 

But is this constant conjunction observable in human 
actions ? A student of history could give but one answer 
to this question : 

Ambition, avarice, self-love, vanity, friendship, generosity, 
public spirit : these passions, mixed in various degrees, and 
distributed through society, have been, from the beginning of 
the world, and stiE are, the source of all the actions and enter- 
prizes which have ever been observed among mankind. 
Would you know the sentiments, inclinations, and course of 
life of the G-reeks and Eomans ? Study weE the temper and 
actions of the French and English. You cannot be much 
mistaken in transferring to the former most of the observa- 
tions which you have made with regard to the latter. Man- 
kind are so much the same, in all times and places, that history 


186 


HUME. 


[chap. 


informs ns of nothing now or strange in this particular. Its 
chief use is only to discover the constant and universal prin- 
ciples of human nature, by showing men in all varieties of 
circumstances and situations, and furnishing us with materials 
from which we may form our observations, and become ac- 
quainted with the regular springs of human action and 
behaviour. These records of wars, intrigues, factions, and 
revolutions are so iiwny collections of experiments, by which 
the politician or moral philosopher fixes the principles of his 
science, in the same manner as the physician or natural philo- 
sopher becomes acquainted with the nature of plants, minerals, 
and other external objects, by the experiments which he forms 
concerning them. Nor are the earth, air, water, and other 
elements examined by Aristotle and Hippocrates more like to 
those which at present lie under our observation, than the 
men described by Polybius and Tacitus are to those who now 
govern the world.^’ — (IV. pp. 97-8.) 


Hume proceeds to point out that the value set upon 
experience in the conduct of affairs, whether of business 
or of politics, involves the acknowledgment that we base 
our expectation of what men will do, xipon our observation 
of what they have done ; and, that we are as firmly con- 
vinced of the fixed order of thoughts as we are of that 
of things. And, if it be urged that human actions not 
unfrequently appear unaccountable and capricious, his 
reply is prompt : — 

‘‘I grant it possible to find some actions which seem to 
have no regular connexion with any known motives, and are 
exceptions to all the measures of conduct which have ever 
been established for the government of men. But if one 
could willingly know what judgment should be formed of 
such irregular and extraordinary actions, we may consider 
the sentiments commonly entertained with regard to those 
irregular events which appear in the course of nature, and 


X.] 


VOLITIOIT : LIBEKTY AND NECESSITY. 


187 


the operations of external objects. All causes are not con- 
joined to their usual effects with like uniformity. An arti- 
ficer, who handles only dead matter, may be disappointed in 
his aim, as well as the politician who directs the conduct of 
sensible and intelligent agents. 

‘‘The vulgar, who take things according to their first 
appearance,, attribute the uncertainty of events to such an 
uncertainty in the causes as make the latter often fail of 
their usual influence, though they meet with no impediment 
to their operation. But philosophers, observing that, almost in 
every part of nature, there is contained a vast variety of 
springs and principles, which are hid, by reason of their 
minuteness or remoteness, find that it is at least possible the 
contrariety of events may not proceed from any contingency 
in the cause, but from the secret operation of contrary causes. 
This possibility is converted into certainty by further obser- 
vation, when they remark that, upon an exact scrutiny, a con- 
trariety of effects always betrays a contrariety of causes, and 
proceeds from their mutual opposition. A peasant can give 
no better reason for the stopping of any clock or watch, than 
to say that it does not commonly go right. But an artist 
easily perceives that the same force in the spring or pendulum 
has always the same influence on the wheels ; but fails of its 
usual effect, perhaps by reason of a grain of dust, which puts 
a stop to the whole movement. From the observation of 
several parallel instances, philosophers form a maxim, that the 
connexion between all causes and effects is equally necessary, 
and that its seeming uncertainty in some instances proceeds 
from the secret opposition of contrary causes.” — (lY.pp. 101-2.) 

So with regard to human actions : — 

“ The internal principles and motives may operate in a 
uniform manner, notwithstanding these seeming irregularities ; 
in the same manner as the winds, rains, clouds, and other 
variations of the weather are supposed to be governed by 
steady principles ; though not easily discoverable by human 
sagacity and inquiry.” — (lY. p. 103.) 


188 


HUME. 


[chap. 


Meteorology, as a science, was not in existence in 
Hume's time, or he would have left out the supposed 
to be.” In practice, again, what difference does any one 
make between natural and moral evidence ? 

A prisoner who has neither money nor interest, discovers 
the impossibility of his escape, as well when he considers the 
obstinacy of the gaoler, as the walls and bars with which he is 
surrounded; and, in all attempts for his freedom, chooses 
rather to work upon the stone and iron of the one, than upon 
the inflexible nature of the other. The same prisoner, when 
conducted to the scaffold, foresees his death as certainly from 
the constancy and fidelity of his guards, as from the operation 
of the axe or wheel. His mind runs along a certain train of 
ideas : The refusal of the soldiers to consent to his escape ; 
the action of the executioner; the separation of the head and 
body ; bleeding, convulsive motions, and death. Here is a 
connected chain of natural causes and voluntary actions ; but 
the mind feels no difference between them, in passing from 
one link to another, nor is less certain of the future event, 
than if it were connected with the objects presented to the 
memory or senses, by a train of causes cemented together by 
what we are pleased to call a physical necessity. The same 
experienced union has the same effect on the mind, whether 
the united objects be motives, volition, and actions ; or figure 
and motion. We may change the names of things, but their 
nature and their operation on the understanding never 
change.”— (ly. pp. 105-6.) 

But, if the necessary connexion of our acts with our 
ideas has always been acknowledged in practice, why 
the proclivity of mankind to deny it words ? 

If we examine the operations of body, and the production 
of effects from their causes, we shall find that all our faculties 
can never carry us further in’ our knowledge of this relation, 
than barely to observe, that particular objects are constantly 



X.] 


VOLITION : LIBERTY AND NECESSITY. 


189 


conjoined together, and that the mind is carried, by a cus~ 
tomary transition^ from the appearance of the one to the belief 
of the other. But though this conclusion concerning human 
ignorance he the result of the strictest scrutiny of this subject, 
naen still entertain a strong propensity to believe, that they 
penetrate further into the province of nature, and perceive 
something like a necessary connexion between cause and 
ejfect. When, again, they turn their reflections towards the 
operations of their own minds, and feel no such connexion 
between the motive and the action ; they are thence apt to 
suppose, that there is a difference between the effects which 
result from material force, and those which arise from thought 
and intelligence. But, being once convinced, that we know 
notliing of causation of any kind, than merely the constant 
conjunction of objects, and the consequent inference of the 
mind from one to another, and finding that these two circum- 
stances are universally aDowed to have place in voluntary 
actions ; we may be more easily led to own the same necessity 
common to all causes.^’ — (IV. pp. 107, 8.) 

The last asylum of the hard-pressed advocate of the 
doctrine of uncaused volition is usually, that, argue as 
you like, he has a profound and ineradicable conscious- 
ness of what he calls the freedom of his will. But Hume 
follows him even here, though only in a note, as if he 
thought the extinction of so transparent a sophism 
hardly -worthy of the dignity of his text. 

‘^The prevalence of the doctrine of liberty may be 
accounted for from another cause, viz. a false sensation, or 
seeming experience, which we have, or may have, of liberty or 
indifference in many of our actions. The necessity of any 
action, whether of matter or of mind, is not, properly speak- 
ing, a quality in the agent, but in any thinking or intelligent 
being w’ho may consider the action ; and it consists chiefly in 
the determination of his thoughts to infer the existence of 
that action from some preceding objects ; as liberty, when 


190 


HUME. 


[chap. 


opposed to necessity^ is nothing but the want o£ that deter- 
minatioBj and a certain looseness or indifference which we 
feel, in passing or not passing, from the idea of any object to 
the idea of any succeeding one. Now we may observe that 
though, in reflecting on human actions, we seldom feel such 
looseness or indifference, but are commonly able to infer them 
with considerable certainty from their motives, and from the 
dispositions of the agent ; yet it frequently happens, that in 
performing the actions themselves, we are sensible of some- 
thing like it : And as all resembling objects are taken for each 
other, this has been employed as demonstrative and even 
intuitive proof of human liberty. We feel that our actions 
are subject to our will on most occasions ; and imagine we feel, 
that the will itself is subject to nothing, because, when by a 
denial of it we are provoked to try, we feel that it moves 
easily every way, and produces an image of itself (or a YelUiiy 
as it is called in the schools), even on that side on which it did 
not settle. This image or faint notion, we persuade ourselves, 
could at that time have been completed into the thing itself ; 
because, should that be denied, we find upon a second trial 
that at present it can. We consider not that the fantastical 
desire of showing liberty is here the motive of our actions/^ 
— (IV. p. 110, 'mote.') 

Moreover, the moment the attempt is made to give a 
definite meaning to the words, the supposed opposition 
between free will and necessity turns out to be a mere 
verbal dispute. 

For what is meant by liberty, when applied to voluntary 
actions ? We cannot surely mean, that actions have so little 
connexion with motive, inclinations, and circumstances, that 
one does not follow with a certain degree of uniformity from 
the other, and that one affords no inference by which we can 
conclude the existence of the other. For these are plain 
and acknowleged matters of fact. By liberty, then, we can 
only mean a power of acting or •not acting according to the 
determinaiiom of the will ; tihed, is, if we choose to remain at 


X.] yOLITrON: LIBERTY AND IjfECESSITY. 191 

rest, we may ; if we choose to move, we also may. Now this 
hypothetical liberty is universally allowed to belong to every 
one who is not a prisoner and in chains. Here then is no 
subject of dispute.^’ — (IV. p. 111.) 

Half the controvei'sies about the freedom of the will 
would have'had no existence, if this pithy pai'agraph had 
been well pondered by those who oppose the doctrine of 
necessity. For they rest upon the absurd presumption 
that the proposition, I can do as I like,’^ is conti'adic- 
tory to the doctrine of necessity. The answer is ; nobody 
doubts that, at any rate within certain limits, you can do 
as you like. But what determines your likings and 
dislikings ? Did you make your own constitution ? Is 
it your contrivance that one thing is pleasant and 
another is painful 1 And even if it were, why did you 
prefer to make it after the one fashion rather than 
the other ? The passionate assertion of the consciousness 
of their freedom, which is the favourite refuge of the 
opponents of the doctrine of necessity, is mere futility, 
for nobody denies it. What they really have to do, if 
they would upset the necessarian argument, is to prove 
that they are free to associate any emotion whatever with 
any idea whatever ; to like pain as much as pleasure ; 
vice as much as virtue ; in short, to prove, that, whatever 
may be the fixity of order of the universe of things, that 
of thought is given over to chance. 

In the second part of this remarkable essay, Hume 
considers the real, or supposed, immoral consequences of 
the doctrine of necessity, premising the weighty obser- 
vation that 

When any opinion leads to absurdity, it is certainly false ; 
but it is not certain that an opinion is false because it is 
of dangerous consequence.”— (IV. p. 112.) 


192 


HUME. 


[chap. 


And, therefore, that the attempt to refute an opinion 
by a picture of its dangerous consequences to religion 
and morality, is as illogical as it is reprehensible. 

It is said, in the first place, that necessity destroys 
responsibility; that, as it is usually put, we have no 
right to praise or blame actions that cannot be helped. 
Hume’s reply amounts to this, that the very idea of 
responsibility implies the belief in the necessary con- 
nexion of certain actions with certain states of the 
mind. A person is held responsible only for those acts 
which are preceded by a certain intention ; and, as we 
cannot see, or hear, or feel, an, intention, we can only 
reason out its existence on the principle that like effects 
have like causes. 

If a man is found by the police busy with 

jemmy” and dai'k lantern at a jeweller’s shop door 
over night, the magistrate before whom he is brought 
the next morning, reasons from those effects to their 
causes in the fellow’s burglarious ” ideas and volitions, 
with perfect confidence, and punishes him accordingly. 
And it is quite clear that such a proceeding would be 
grossly unjust, if the links of the logical process were 
other than necessarily connected together. The advocate 
who should attempt to get the man off on the plea that 
his client need not necessarily have had a felonious 
intent, would hardly waste his time more, if he tried to 
prove that the sum of all the angles of a tiuangle is not 
two right angles, but three. 

A man’s moral responsibility for his acts has, in fact, 
nothing to do with the causation of these acts, but de^ 
pends on the frame of mind which accompanies them. 
Common language tells us this, when it uses ' t well-dis- 
posed ” as the equivalent of ‘‘good,” and “ evil-minded” 



X.] VOLITION : LIBERTY AND NECESSITY. 19S 

as that of wicked.” If A does something which puts 
B in a violent passion, it is quite possible to admit that 
B’s passion is the necessary consequence of A’s act, 
and yet to believe that B’s fury is morally wrong, or 
that he ought to control it. In fact, a calm bystander 
would reason with both on the assumption of moral 
necessity. He would say to A, “ You were wrong in 
doing a thing which you knew (that is, of the necessity 
of which you were convinced) would irritate B.” And 
he would say to B, You are wrong to give way to 
passion, for you know its evil effects ” — that is the ne- 
cessary connection between yielding to passion and evil. 

So far, therefore, from necessity destroying moral 
responsibility, it is the foundation of all praise and 
blame ; and moral admiration reaches its climax in the 
ascription of necessary goodness to the Deity. 

To the statement of another consequence of the neces- 
sarian doctrine, that, if there be a God, he must be the 
cause of all evil as well as of all good, Hume gives no 
real reply — probably because none is possible. But 
then, if this conclusion is distinctly and unquestionably 
deducible from the doctrine of necessity, it is no less 
unquestionably a direct consequence of evei'y known 
form of monotheism. If God is the cause of all things, 
he must be the cause of evil among the rest ; if he is 
omniscient, he must have the fore-knowledge of evil ; 
if he is almighty, he must possess the power of pre- 
venting, or of extinguishing evil. And to say that an 
all-knowing and all-powerful being is not responsible 
for what happens, because he only permits it, is, undei 
its intellectual aspect, a piece of childish sophistry ; 
while, as to the moral look of it, one has only to ask 
any decently honourable man, whether, under lixe cir- 


194 HUME. [OHAP. 

cumstances, lie would ti'y to get rid of his responsibility 
by such a plea. 

Hxime’s Inquiry appeared in 1748. He does not 
refer to Anthony Collins’ essay on Liberty, published 
thirty-three years before, in which the same question is 
treated to the same effect, with singular force and 
X acidity. It may be said, perhaps, that it is not wonder- 
ful that the two freethinkers should follow the same 
line of reasoning ; but no such theory will account for 
the fact that in 1754, the famous Calvinistic divine, J ona- 
than Edwards, President of the College of New J ersey, 
produced, in the interests of the straitest orthodoxy, a 
demonstration of the necessarian thesis, which has never 
been equalled in power, and certainly has never been 
refuted. 

In the ninth section of the fourth part of Edwards’ 
Inquiry, he has to deal with the Arminian objection 
to the Calvinistic doctrine that it makes God the 
author of sin ” ; and it is curious to watch the struggle 
between the theological controversialist, striving to ward 
off an admission which he knows will be employed to 
damage his side, and the acute logician, conscious that, 
in some shape or other, the admission must be made. 
Beginning with a tu quoqm, that the Arminian doctrine 
involves consequences as bad as the Calvinistic view, 
he proceeds to object to the term ^‘author of sin,” 
though he ends by admitting that, in a certain sense, 
it is applicable \ he proves from Scripture, that God is 
the disposer and orderer of sin ; and then, by an 
elaborate false analogy with the darkness resulting 
from the absence of the sun, endeavours to suggest that 
he is only the author of it in a negative sense ; and, 
finally, he takes refuge in the conclusion that, though 


X.] 


YOLITION : LIBERTY AND NECESSITY. 


195 


God is the orderer and disposer of those deeds which, 
considered in relation to their agents, are morally evil, 
yet, inasmuch as His purpose has all along been infinitely 
good, they are not evil relatively to Him. 

And this, of course, may be perfectly true ; but if 
true, it is inconsistent with the attribute of Omnipotence. 
It is conceivable that there should be no evil in the 
■world ; that which is conceivable is certainly possible ; 
if it were possible for evil to be non-existent, the maker of 
the world, who, though foreknowing the existence of evil 
in that world, did not prevent it, either did not really 
desire it should not exist, or could not prevent its exist 
ence. It might be well for those who inveigh against 
the logical consequences of necessarianism to bethink 
them of the logical consequences of theism ; which are 
not only the same, when the attribute of Omniscience is 
ascribed to the Deity, but which bring out, from the 
existence of moral evil, a hopeless conflict between the 
attributes of Infinite Benevolence and Infinite Power, 
which, with no less assurance, are affirmed to appertain 
to the Divine Being. 

Kant’s mode of dealing with the doctrine of necessity 
is very singular. That the phenomena of the mind 
follow fixed relations of cause and effect is, to him, 
as unquestionable as it is to Hume. But then there 
is the Bing an sick, the Noumenon, or Kantian equiva- 
lent for the substance of the souL This, being out 
of the phenomenal world, is subject to none of the 
laws of phenomena, and is consequently as absolutely 
free, and as completely powerless, as a mathematical 
point, in vacuo, would be. Hence volition is uncaused, 
so far as it belongs to the noumenon ; but, necessary, 
so far as it takes effect in the phenomenal world. 

o 2 


196 


HUME. 


[oh. X. 


Since Kant is never weary of telling ns tliat we know 
nothing whatever, and can know nothing, about the 
noumenon, except as the hypothetical subject of any 
number of negative predicates ; the information that 
it is free, in the sense of being out of reach of the law 
of causation, is about as valuable as the assertion that 
it is neither grey, nor blue, nor square. For practical 
purposes, it must be admitted that the inward pos- 
session of such a noumenal libertine does not amount 
to much for people whose actual existence is made up 
of nothing but definitely regulated phenomena. When 
the good and evil angels fought for the dead body of 
Moses, its presence must have been of about the same 
value to either of the contending parties, as that of 
Kant’s noumenon, in the battle of impulses which rages 
in the breast of man. Metaphysicians, as a rule, are 
sadly deficient in the sense of humour ; or they would 
surely abstain from advancing propositions which, when 
stripped of the verbiage in which they are disguised, 
appear to the profane eye to be bare shams, naked but 
not ashamed. 


CHAPTEE XI. 


THE PRINCIPLES OP MORALS. 

In his autobiograph}^, Hume wites : — 

“ In the same year [1752] was published at London my 
Inquiry Concerning the Frincijgles of Morals ; which in my own 
opinion (who ought not to judge on that subject) is of all my 
writings, historical, philosophical, and literary, incomparably 
the best. It came unnoticed and unobserved into the world.” 

It may commonly be noticed that the relative value 
which an author ascribes to his own works rarely agrees 
with the estimate formed of them by his readers; who 
criticise the products, without either the jpower or the 
wish to take into account the pains which they may have 
cost the producer. Moreover, the clear and dispassionate 
common sense of the Inquiry concerning the Principles 
of Morals may have tasted flat after the highly- seasoned 
Inquiry concerning the Human Understanding. Whether 
the public like to be deceived, or not, may be open to 
question ; but it is beyond a doubt that they love to be 
shocked in a pleasant and mannerly way. Xow Hume’s 
speculations on moral questions are not so remote from 
those of respectable professors, like Hutcheson, or saintly 
prelates, such as Butler, as to present any striking 


198 


HTOIE. 


[chap. 


novelty. And they support the cause of righteousness 
in a cool, reasonable, indeed slightly patronising fashion, 
eminently in harmony with the mind of the eighteenth 
century • which admired virtue very much, if she would 
only avoid the rigour which the age called fanaticism, 
and the fervour which it called enthusiasm. 

Having applied the ordinary methods of scientific 
inquiry to the intellectual phenomena of the mind, it 
was natural that Hume should extend the same mode of 
investigation to its moral phenomena ; and, in the true 
spirit of a natural philosopher, he commences by select- 
ing’ ^ group of those states of consciousness with which 
every one’s personal experience must have made him 
familial' : in the expectation that the discovery of the 
sources of moral approbation and disapprobation, in 
this comparatively easy case, may furnish the means of 
detecting them where they are more recondite. 


^ We shall analyse that complication of mental qualities 
which form what, in common life, we call personal merit : We 
shall consider every attribute of the mind, which renders a 
man an object either of esteem and affection, or of hatred and 
contempt ; every habit or sentiment or faculty, which if ascribed 
to any person, implies either praise or blame, and may enter 
into an;^ panegyric or satire of his character and manners. 
The quick sensibility which, on this head, is so universal 
among mankind, gives a philosopher sufficient assurance that 
he can never be considerably mistaken in framing the cata- 
logue, or incurs any danger of misplacing the objects of his 
contemplation : He needs only enter into his own breast for a 
moment, and consider whether he should or should not desire 
to have this or that quality assigned to him, and whether 
such or such an imputation would proceed from a friend or an 

language guides us almost 
infahibly m forming a judgment of this nature; and as 
every tongme possesses one set of words which are taken in a 


f 

1 

XI.] THE PEINCIPLES OF MOEALS. 199 

good sense, and anotlier in the opposite, the least acquain- 
tance with the idiom suffices, without any reasoning, to direct 
us in collecting and arranging the estimable or blamable 
qualities of men. The only object of reasoning is to dis- 
cover the circumstances on both sides, which are common to 
these qualities ; to observe that particular in which the 
estimable qualities agree on the one hand, and the blamable 
on the other, and thence to reach the foundation of ethics, 
and find their universal principles, from which all censure or 
approbation is ultimately derived. As this is a question 
of fact, not of abstract science, we can only expect success 
by following the experimental method, and deducing general 
maxims from a comparison of particular instances. The other 
scientifical method, where a general abstract principle is first 
established, and is afterwards branched out into a variety of 
inferences and conclusions, may be more perfect in itself, but 
suits less the imperfection of human nature, and is a common 
source of illusion and mistake, in this as well as in other 
subjects. Men are now cured of their passion for hypotheses 
and systems in natural philosophy, and will hearken to no 
arguments but those which are derived from experience. It 
is full time they should attempt a like reformation in all moral 
disquisitions ; and reject every system of ethics, however 
subtile or ingenious, which is not founded on fact and obser- 
vation.” — (IV. pp. 242— 4.) 

ISTo qualities give a man a greater claim to personal 
merit than benevolence and justice ; but if we inquire 
why benevolence deserves so much praise, the answer 
will certainly contain a large reference to the utility of 
that virtue to society ; and as for justice, the very 
existence of the virtue implies that of society ; public 
utility is its sole origin ; and the measure of its useful- 
ness is also the standard of its merit. If every man 
possessed everything he wanted, and no one had the 
power to interfere with such possession ; or if no man 
desired that which could damage his fellow-man, justice 


HUME. 


200 


[CHAK 


would have no part to play in the universe. But as 
Hume observes : — 

In the present disposition of the human heart, it would 
perhaps be difficult to find complete instances of such en- 
larged affections ; but still we may observe that the case of 
families approaches towards it ; and the stronger the mutual 
benevolence is among the individuals, the nearer it approaches, 
till all distinction of property be in a great measure lost and 
confounded among them. Between married persons, the 
cement of friendship is by the laws supposed so strong, as to 
abolish all division of possessions, and has often, in reality, 
the force assigned to it.* And it is observable that, during the 
ardour of new enthusiasms, when every principle is inflamed 
into extravagance, the community of goods has frequently 
been attempted; and nothing but experience of its incon- 
veniences, from the returning or disguised selfishness of men, 
could make the imprudent fanatics adopt anew the ideas of 
justice and separate property. So true is it that this virtue 
derives its existence entirely from its necessary use to the 
intercourse and social state of mankind.^' — (IV. p. 256.) 

'^Were the human species so framed by nature as that each 
individual possessed within himself every faculty requisite 
both for his own preservation and for the propagation of his 
kind : Were all society and intercourse cut off between man 
and man by the primary intention of the Supreme Creator : 
It seems evident that so solitary a being would be as much 
incapable of justice as of social discourse and conversation. 
Where mutual regard and forbearance serve to no manner of 
purpose, they "would never direct the conduct of any reason- 
able man. The headlong course of thq passions would be 
checked by no reflection on future consequences. And as each 


^ Family affection in the eighteenth century may have been 
stronger than in the nineteenth ; but Hume’s bachelor inexperience 
can surely alone explain his stiange account of the suppositions of 
the marriage law of that day, and their effects. The law certainly 
abolished all division of possessions, but it did so by making the 
husband sole proprietor. 


XI.] 


THE PEIHCIPLES OP MOEALS. 



I 

I . 

201 

man is here supposed to love himself alone, and to depend 
only on himself and his own activity for safety and happiness, 
he would, on every occasion, to the utmost of his power, 
challenge the preference above every other being, to none of 
which he is bound by any ties, either of nature or of interest. 

But suppose the conjunction of the sexes to be established 
in nature, a family immediately arises ; and particular rules 
being found requisite for its subsistence, these are immediately 
embraced, though without comprehending the rest of man- 
kind within their prescriptions. Suppose that several families 
unite together in one society, which is totally disjoined from 
all others, the rules which preserve peace and order enlarge 
themselves to the utmost extent of that society ; but becoming 
then entirely useless, lose their force when carried one step 
further. But again, suppose that several distinct societies 
maintain a kind of intercourse for mutual convenience and 
advantage, the boundaries of justice still grow larger, in pro- 
portion to the largeness of men’s views and the force of their 
mutual connexion. History, experience, reason, sufficiently 
instruct us in this natural progress of human sentiments, and 
in the gradual enlargement of our regard to justice in pro- 
portion as we become acquainted with the extensive utility of 
that virtue.” —(IV. pp. 262 — 4.) 

The moral obligation of justice and the rights of pro- 
perty are by no means diminished by this exposure of 
the purely utilitarian basis on which they rest : — 

“ For what stronger foundation can be desired or conceived 
for any duty, than to observe that human society, or even 
human nature, could not subsist without the establishment of 
it, and will still arrive at greater degrees of happiness and 
perfection, the more inviolable the regard is which is paid to 
that duty ? 

The dilemma seems obvious : As justice evidently tends 
to promote public utility, and to support civil society, the 
sentiment of ]ustice is either derived from our reflecting on 
that tendency, or, like hunger, thirst, and other appetites, re- 
sentment, love of life, attachment to offspring, and other 


f 

f 

202 HUME. [chap. 

passions, arises from a simple original instinct in the human 
heart, which nature has implanted for like salutary purposes. 
If the latter be the case, it follows that property, which is the 
object of justice, is also distinguished by a simple original 
instinct, and is not ascertained by any argument or reflection. 
But who is there that ever heard of such an instinct ? 
Or is this a subject in which new discoveries can be made ? 
We may as well expect to discover in the body new senses 
which had before escaped the observation of all mankind.” 
-(IV. pp. 273, 4.) 

The restriction of the object of justice to property, in 
this passage, is singular. Pleasure and pain can hardly 
be included under the term property, and yet justice 
surely deals largely with the withholding of the former, 
or the infliction of the latter, by men on one another. If 
a man bars another from a pleasure which he would 
otherwise enjoy, or actively hurts him without good 
reason, the latter is said to be injured as much as if bis 
property bad been interfered with. Here, indeed, it 
may be readily shown, that it is as much the interest 
of society that men should not interfere with one 
another's freedom, or mutually inflict positive or nega- 
tive pain, as that they should not meddle with one 
another’s property ; and hence the obligation of justice 
in such matters may be deduced. But, if a man merely 
thinks ill of another, or feels maHciously towards him 
without due cause, he is properly said to be unjust. 
In this case it would be hard to prove that any injury 
is done to society by the evil thought ; but there is 
no question that it will be stigmatised as an injustice ; 
and the offender himself, in another frame of mind, is 
often ready enough to admit that he has failed to be 
just towards his neighbour. However, it may plau- 
sibly be said, that so slight a barrier lies between 



I 

I 

Xij THE PBINCIPLES OP MORALS. 203 

thonglit and speech, that any moral quality attached to 
the latter is easily transferred to the former ; and that, 
since open slander is obviously opposed to the interests of 
society, injustice of thought, which is silent slander, must 
become inextricably associated with the same blame. 

But, granting the utility to society of all kinds of 
benevolence and justice, why should the quality of 
those virtues involve the sense of moral obligation ? 

Hume answers this question in the fifth section, en- 
titled, Why Utility Pleases. He repudiates the deduction 
of moral approbation from self-love, and utterly denies 
that we approve of benevolent or just actions because 
we think of the benefits which they are likely to confer 
indirectly on ourselves. The source of the approbation 
with which we view an act useful to society must be 
sought elsewhere ; and, in fact, is to be found in that 
feeling which is called sympathy. 

‘^^No man is absolutely indifierent to the happiness and 
misery of others. The first has a natural tendency to give 
pleasure, the second pain. This every one may find in him- 
self. It is not probable that these principles can be resolved 
into principles more simple and universal, whatever attempts 
may have been made for that purpose.’’ — (IV. p. 294, Note.) 

Other men’s joys and sorrows are not spectacles at 
which we remain unmoved : — 

. The view of the former, whether in its causes or ejBEects, 
like sunshine, or the prospect of well-cultivated plains (to 
carry our pretensions no higher) communicates a secret joy 
and satisfaction ; the appearance of the latter, like a lowering 
cloud or barren landscape, throws a melancholy damp over the 
imagination. And this concession being once made, the diffi- 
culty is over ; and a natural unforced interpretation of the 
phenomena of human life will afterwards, we hope, prevail 
among all speculative inquirers.” — (IV. p. 320.) 



204 


HUME. 


[chap. 


The moral approbation, therefore, with which we re- 
gard acts of justice or benevolence rests upon their utility 
to society, because the perception of that utility or, in 
other words, of the pleasure which they give to other 
men, arouses a feeling of sympathetic pleasure in our- 
selves. The feeling of obligation to be just, or of the 
duty of justice, arises out of that association of moral 
approbation or disapprobation with one’s own actions, 
which is what we call conscience. To fail in justice, or 
in benevolence, is to be displeased with oneself. But 
happiness is impossible without inward self-approval ; 
and, hence, every man who has any regard to his own 
happiness and welfare, will find his best reward in the 
practice of every moral duty. On this topic Hume 
expends much eloquence. 

But what philosophical truths can be more advantageous 
to society than these here delivered, which represent virtue in 
all her genuine and most engaging charms, and make us 
approach her with ease, familiarity, ■ and affection ? The 
dismal dress falls off, with which many divines and some 
philosophers have covered her; and nothing appears but gentle- 
ness, humanity, beneficence, affability ; nay, even at proper 
intervals, play, frolic, and gaiety. She talks not of useless 
austerities and rigours, suffering and self-denial. She declares 
that her sole purpose is to make her votaries, and all mankind, 
during every period of their existence, if possible, cheerful 
and happy ; nor does she ever willingly part with any pleasure 
but in hopes of ample compensation in some other period of 
their lives. The sole trouble which she demands is that of 
just calculation, and a steady preference of the greater 
happiness. And if any austere pretenders approach her, 
enemies to joy and pleasure, she either rejects them as 
hypocrites and deceivers, or if she admit them in her train, 
they are ranked, however, among the least favoured of her 
votaries. 


THE PEINCIPLES OF MOBALS. 


1 


205 


XI.] 


0 


“ And, indeed, to drop all figurative expression, wliat hopes 
cun we ever have of engaging mankind to a practice which 
'we confess full of austerity and rigour ? Or what theory of 
morals can ever serve any useful purpose, unless it can show, 
by a particular detail, that all the duties which it recommends 
are also the true interest of each individual ? The peculiar 
advantage of the foregoing system seem to be, that it furnishes 
proper mediums for that purpose/’ — (IV. p. 360.) 

In this psean to virtue, there is more of the dance 
measure than will sound appropriate in the ears of 
most of the pilgrims who toil painfully, not without many 
a stumble and many a bruise, along the rough and steep 
roads which lead to the higher life. 

Virtue is undoubtedly beneficent ; but the man is to be 
envied to whom her ways seem in anywise playful. And, 
though she may not talk much about suffering and self- 
denial, her silence on that topic may be accounted for on 
the principle ga m sans dire. The calculation of the 
greatest happiness is not performed quite so easily as a 
rule of three sum ; while, in the hour of temptation, the 
question will crop up, whether, as something has to 
be sacrificed, a bird in the hand is not woi'th two in 
the bush ; whether it may not be as well to give up 
the problematical greater happiness in the future, for a 
certain great happiness in the present, and 

Buy the merry madness of one hour 
With the long irksomeness of following time.” ^ 

If mankind cannot be engaged in practices “full of 
austerity and rigour,*^ by the love of righteousness and 
the fear of evil, without seeking for other compensation 
than that which flows from the gratification of such love 
and the consciousness of escape from debasement, they 


^ Ben Jonson’s Cynthia's Revels, act i. 


f. 


[ 


206 HUME. [chap. 

are in a bad case. For they will assuredly find that virtue 
presents no very close likeness to the sportive leader of 
the joyous houi's in Hume’s rosy picture ; but that she 
is an awful Goddess, whose ministers are the Furies, and 
whose highest reward is peace. 

It is not improbable that Hume would have qualified 
all this as enthusiasm or fanaticism, or both; but he 
virtually admits it : — 

“Now, as virtue is an end, and is desirable on its own 
account, without fee or reward, merely for the immediate 
satisfaction which it conveys, it is requisite that there should 
be some sentiment which it touches; some internal taste or 
feeling, or whatever you please to call it, which distinguishes 
moral good and evil, and which embraces the one and rejects 
the other, 

“Thus the distinct boundaries and offices of reason and of 
taste are easily ascertained. The former conveys the know- 
ledge of truth and falsehood : The latter gives the sentiment 
of beauty and deformity, vice and virtue. The one discovers 
objects as they really stand in nature, without addition or dimi- 
nution : The other has a productive faculty, and gilding and 
staining all natural objects with the colours borrowed 
from internal sentiment, raises in a manner a new creation, 
Eeason being cool and disengaged, is no motive to action, 
and directs only the impulse received from appetite or in- 
clination, by showing us the means of attaining happiness or 
avoiding misery. Taste, as it gives pleasure or pain, and 
thereby constitutes happiness or misery, becomes a motive to 
action, and is the first spring or impulse to desire and voHtion. 
From circumstances and relations known or supposed, the 
former leads us to the discovery of the concealed and un- 
known. After all circumstances and relations are laid before 
uj the latter makes us feel from the whole a new sentiment 
of blame or approbation. The standard of the one, being 
ounded on the nature of things, is external and inflexible, 
even by the will of the Supreme Being : The standard of 



J ' 

XL] THE PBINCIPLES OE MORALS. 207 

the other, arising from the internal frame and constitution 
of animals, is ultimately derived from the Supreme Will, 
which, bestowed on each being its peculiar nature, and 
arranged the several classes and orders of existence.^^ — (IV. 
pp. 376- 7.) 

Hume has not discussed the theological theory of 
the obligations of morality, but it is obviously in 
accordance with his view of the nature of those obliga- 
tions. Under its theological aspect, morality is obedi- 
ence to the will of God; and the ground for such 
obedience is two-fold ; either we ought to obey God 
because He will punish us if we disobey Him, which is 
an argument based on the utility of obedience ; or our 
obedience ought to flow from our love towards God, 
which is an argument based on pure feeling and for 
which no reason can be given. For, if any man should 
say that he takes no pleasui'e in the contemplation of 
the ideal of perfect holiness, or, in other words, that he 
does not love God, the attempt to argue him into 
acquiring that pleasure would be as hopeless as the 
endeavour to persuade Peter Bell of the witchery of 
the soft blue sky.’’ 

In whichever way we look at the matter, morality is 
based on feeling, not on I'eason ; though reason alone 
is competent to trace out the eflects of our actions 
and thereby dictate conduct. Justice is founded on 
the love of one’s neighbour; and goodness is a kind 
of beauty. The moral law, like the laws of physical 
nature, rests in the long run upon instinctive intui- 
tions, and is neither more nor less “ innate ” and neces- 
sary” than they are. Some people cannot by any means 
be got to understand the first book of Euclid ; but 
the truths of mathematics are no less necessary and 


f 

208 ' HUME. [CH. XI. 

binding on the great mass of mankind. Some there 
are who cannot feel the difference between the 
Appassionata and Cherry Ripe; or between a grave- 
stone-cutter’s cherub and the Apollo Belvidere ; but 
the canons of art are none the less acknowledged. 
While some there may be, who, devoid of sympathy 
are incapable of a sense of duty ; but neither does 
their existence affect the foundations of morality. 
Such pathological deviations from true manhood are 
merely the halt, the lame, and the blind of the world- 
of consciousness ; and the anatomist of the mind leaves 
them aside, as the anatomist of the body would ignore 
abnormal specimens. 

And as there are Pascals and Mozarts, Newtons and 
Eaffaelles, in whom the innate faculty for science or 
art seems to need but a touch to spring into full 
vigour, and through whom the human race obtains new 
possibilities of knowledge and new conceptions of 
beauty : so there have been men of moral genius, to 
whom we owe ideals of duty and visions of moral 
perfection, which ordinary mankind could never have 
attained ; though, happily for them, they can feel the 
beauty of a vision, which lay beyond the reach of their 
dull imaginations, and count life well spent in shaping 
some faint image of it in the actual world. 







INDEX 


A 


“ Academical philosophy,” 57 
Agnosticism, 60 
Akbar Khan, 139 
America, 40 
Analogy (Butler’s), 154 
Anatomy, comparative, 106 
Anecdotes, 29, 36, 37, 39 
Animals, mental phenomena 
of, 103 Btq. ; nervous system 
of, 104 ; organs of men and, 
104; ^inferences’’ of, 109; 
instincts of, 110 — 112 ; in- 
nate desires in, 112. 
Annandale, Marquis of, 25 
“Arthur’s Seat,” 43 
Aristocracy, 13 
Association, law of, 91 
Autobiography, Hume’s, 3 
197 


Aylesbury, Lord and Lady, 38 


B 

Bacon, 22 

Barbarians. The English 
people, 39 

Berkeley, Bishop, 55, 63, 76, 
96, 166 

Biographer, Hume’s, 4, 37, 
45 

Blair, 39 


Boufflers, Madame de, Hume’s 
correspondence with, 36 
Boyle, Mr., 29 
Burns, 164, 178 
Burton, John Hill, 37, 45 ; 

estimate of Hume by, 4 
Bute, Lord, 40 
Butler, Bishop, 24, .154, 178 


C 

Cabanis, 80 
Carlyle, Doctor, 29 
Causation, axiom of, 120 seg. ^ 
logic of,, 125 
Cause, First, 148, 149 
Cause and Effect, 120 seg. 
Certainty, 55 

Character, causes of national, 
22, 23 

Charlemont, Lord, 28, 36 
Chatham, Lord, Hume’s 
opinion of, 40 
Cheyne, Dr. George, 5, 8 
Children, fundamental pheno- 
mena of mind in, 103, 104 
Cleanthes, 146, 147, 152 
Clephane, Doctor, 32, 33, 35 
Codkburn, Mrs. 39 
Commons, House of, 16, 17, 19 
Comte, 18, 52 
Consciousness, 55 
Constitution, the British, 17 



f 


HUME. 


I 

212 

Correlation, 89 
“ Courb and Country,*' 21 
Courtenay, Bishop, 173 
Custom, 99, 100 


D 

Deaf mutes, mental operations 
of, 103, 104 

Democracy, 13 

Descartes, 8, 51, 55, 62, 78, 83, 
85, 127, 165 

D’Epinay, Madame, humorous 
description of Hume by, 
36, 37 

Design, the argument from, 
144, 145 

Dialogues on Natural Religion, 
30,' 143, 146 

Dogs, dreaming in their sleep, 
105 ; form generic ideas, 
106 ; inherent snobbishness 
of, 106 

Doubt, Pyrrhonian, 57 


E 

East Indies, 40 
Edinburgh, the centre of 
accomplished and refined 
society, 39 

Edinburgh University, 3, 20 
Edmonstono, Colonel, 36, 39 
Edwards, Jonathan, 194 
Ego, the, 81 

Elections, influence of the 
Crown upon, 16, 17 
Elliot, Sir Gilbert, 38, 39, 
147 

Energy, 126, 127 
English and French compared, 
39 

Englishmen, Hume's difulike 
of aud contempt for, 39—41 


Essays, Moral amd Political 
12 seq. 

Essays,' Ta1>lc of Contents, 

^ 1826 edition, 46 
Ethics (Spinoza’s), 66 
hlvil, existence of, 193—195 
Experience, 85 
Expectation, or inverteci 
memory, 94, 100, 101 
Experimental methods, value 
of, 54 


F 


Ferguson, 39 
Fetishism, 157, 158 
Fichte, 81 

First cause, 148, 149 
Force, 126, 127 
France, Hume’s great reputa- 
tion in, 30; state of learninji 
in, 39 

Free, Inquiry (Middleton’s), 
30 

Frci'.thinkers of 18th Century, 
154^ d 56 

Fre<‘ will, 189 -491 
Future state, necessity of, 
176, 178 


G 

George IIL and royal 
autiiority, 17 
Gibbon, 3i) 

Glasgow University, 12 
God, existcius.^ of, 146 seq, 
153, 180 ; just.iev. of, 175 ' 
Gaveriment, Origin of, 14; 

First Principles o/’ 15 
Government, ultimate, object 
of, 14; police theory of, 14; 
foundation of, 15, 16 



INDEX. f m 


H Hume, David (continued)-^ 

insmcerity, 29 ; returns to 
Harrington, 22 Ninewells and devotes 

Helvetiiis, 36 ^ himself again to writing, 

Herring, Archbishop, 34 30 ; his independence and 

Hertford, Lord, 35, 36 ^ self-reliance, 31 ; removes 

Hutory of Great Britain, to Edinburgh with his 

32—35 ; unfavourable recep- sister, 32 ; begins his 

tion of, 34 history, 32 ; is made 

History of the Works of the librarian to the Faculty 

Learned, criticism of Hume’s of Advocates, 32 ; 

first work in, 10 accused of atheism, 33 ; 

Home, Henry, 24, 27 goes to London, 35 ; 

Human Understanding, Essay accompanies Lord Hert- 

conceming (Locke’s), 56 ford to the French Bm- 

Hume, David — bassy, 35 ; becomes Under 

Birth, 1 ; family history, 2 ; Secretary of State, 37 ; 

his mother’s estimate of returns to Edinburgh 

him, 2 ; education, 3 ; ‘‘very opulent, ” 38 ; makes 

thirst for literary fame, his will and writes My 

3 ; a youthful philosopher, own Life, 42 ; dies in 

3, 4 ; intended for the Edinburgh, 43 ; his burial 

law, 4 ; embarks in place, 43, 44 

commerce, 5 ; a victim to His style, 4, 11, 12; political 
scurvy, 7 ,* goes to sagacity, 17 ; views on 

Bristol, 7, and France, 8; monarchy and republicism, 

composes his first work, 18, 19; on the rich and 

8 ; disappointment at its poor, 21 ; his estimate of 

reception, 10 ; his craving English men of letters, 

after notoriety, 11 ; for- 22 ; his observations on 

sakes philosophy for national character, 22 ; 

political and historical his increasing fame as a 

studies, 11 ; makes the philosopher, 

acquaintance of Adam Hume, Mrs. (mother), 2, 4; 
Smith, 12 ; publishes death of, 29 

Essays Moral and Humility, Spinoza’s definition 

Political, 12; success of of, 67 

the Essays, 24; acts as Hunting and Philosophy, re- 
tutor to the Marquis of semblance between, 141 
Annandale, 25 ; pecuniary Hutcheson, 11, 12, 26, 53 
squabbles, 25 ; fails to 
obtain Chair of Ethics in 
Edinburgh University, 27 ; I 

goes abroad as Secretary 
and aide-de-camp to Idealism, 80, 82 

General St. Clair, 27, 28 ; Ideas, 63, 64 seq, ; innate, 

J irief at his mother’s 82-^86 

eath, 29 ; his reported Ideation, 89, 90 



HUME. 


c 

214 

Identity, 168, 169; personal, 
167, 170, 171 
Imagination, 92 seq. 
Immortality of the soul, 172 
seq. 

Impressions, 64 ; origin of, 74 ; 
Hume’s inconsistency in 
treating of, 74 ^ 

Inquiry concerning Human 
Understanding^^ 11, 194 
Inquiry concerning the Prin- 
ciples of Morods^ 24, 30, 197 
Instincts, 110, 112 


J 

Jacobite party, 21 
Jesuits, 8 

Justice, administration of, 14, 
15 ; distributix'e, 156 


K 

Kant, 4, 51, 60, 68, 85, 172, 179 
Kingship, theory of, 17, 18 
Knowledge, Locke on, 72 


L 

La Fleche, 8 
Language, 114 seq. 
Lawnmarket (Edinburgh), 32 
Leechman, 26, 153 
Leibnitz, 81, 166 
Letters, Hume’s, 3, 9 note^ 24, 
26, 27, 28, 31, 32, 33, 35, 36 
note, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 53, 
147 

Liberty, 186, 190; Collins’s 
essay on, 194 

Life of Hume (Burton’s), 4 
note, 37 note, 45 
Locke, 55, 56, 60, 62, 76, 86, 
166 


M 

Macaulay, Lord, 34 note 
Materialism, 80 
Matter, 165 
Memory, 92 seq 
Mental operations, classifica- 
tion and nomenclature of, 
89 seq. 

Metaphysics, true and false, 
59 

Middle classes, the, 21 
Mill, John Stuart, 5 
Millar, 39 
Milton, 22 

Mind, contents of, 61—73 ; 
faculties of, 61 ; loose ideas 
concerning, 61 ; observation 
of, 62 ; various significations 
attached to the word, 62, 
63 ; definition of, 63 ; opera- 
tions of, 80 

Miracles, Essay on, 11, 140, 141 
Miracles, 129, Hume’s defini- 
tion of, defective, 130 — 132 ; 
possibility of, 13C> — 133 ; pro- 
bability of, 134 — 138 
Monarchy, 13 ; danger to, 18 
Montesquieu, 36 
Morality, foundations of, 207 
Moral philosophy of ancients, 
defects of, 9 

Morals, the principles of, 198 
seq. 

Muller, Johannes, 135 
Mure, William, 153 note 
My oirni Life, 2, 3, 34, 42 


K, 

national Character, 22 
Natural History of Religion, 
35, 144, 146, 157 
Hatural Philosophy^ 53 
Hature, order of, 129 seq 
the pearly, 20 
Heoessary Truths, 116 seq. 



INDEX. 


Necessity^ Essay 07i, 11; doc- 
trine of, 191 seq. 

Negroes, natural inf eriority of , 
24: 

Newton, 208 
“ Ninewells,” 2, 5, 30 
^‘Noumenon” the, 85, 195, 
196 

O 

Origin of Govemment, 14 


P 

Paris, state of literature in, 
39 

Parties of Great Britain^ essay 
on the, 21 
Partisanship, 13 
Pascal, 113, 208 
Perceptions, 63 ; cause of, 76 
Philosophy, its object and 
scope, 48 seq, ; a department 
of scientific research, 48 ,49; 
its connection with psycho- 
logy, 49, 50 ; importance of 
the use of scientific methods 
in, 51 ; a science of man,” 
53 ; its limitations, 56 — 60 ; 
its use, 60 

Philosophical Essays concerning 
the Human Understanding, 
criticism of, 11 

Physiology, Hume’s ignorance 
of, 78 — 79 ; intimate con- 
nexion between psychology 
and, 50 

Pleasure and Pain, 67, 72 
Political Discourses, 30 
Political Essays, 31 
Politics, science of, 12 
Political warfare, 13 
Polytheism, 157 seg. 

Poor, the “ slaving,” 21 
Popular government, danger 
of, 19—21 


215 

Popular religion, 161 — 163 
Positivism, 52 
Power, 12^ 127 
Pretender, the, 22 
Pride, Spinoza’s definition of, 
67 note 

. Priests, Hume’s hatred of, 
140 note 

Privilege, aristocratic, 13 
Psychology, the anatomy of 
the mind, 50 ; a true science, 
51 ; comparative, 106 — 107 ; 
PH7iciplesof{Bpericeds), 67 ; 
roots of, 80 

Punishment, eternal, 177 ; 
reward and, 178 
Pure Metaphysicians,” 52, 73 
Pyrrhonism, 57 


R 

Ramsay, Michael, 3, 31 

Regius, 84 

Relation, 68, 69 ; Hume’s 

confused and contradictory 
idea of, 69 

Religion, natural, 53 ; popular, 
161-163 

Republicanism, dangers of, 
18, 19 ; compared with mon- 
archy, 19, 20 

Republics, corruption of, 20 

Responsibility, moral, 192, 
193 

Rewards and punishments, fu- 
ture, 178 

Rheims, Hume’s residence at, 8 

Rise of the Arts and Sciences, 
essay on, 22 

Rousseau, 36 ; Hume’s quarrel 
with, 37 

S 

Sale, Sir Robert, 138 

Satire, example of Hume’s, 
140, 141 


HUME. 


J 

216 

Savages, Religion of, 157 seq. 
Sceptical Boithts, 133 
Scepticism, excessive, 57 
Science, 48 ; physical, 51 
Scotch, English prejudice 
against the, 40 

Scotland, social condition of, 
21 

Sensation, 89 
Smith, Adam, 12, 39 
Society, necessity of, 14 
Soul, Immortality of the, essay 
on, 172 ; its arguments used 
by ecclesiastics, 173 — 175, 
177 ; a model of clear and 
vigorous statement, 173 
Spinoza, 51, 66, 127, 166 
Spirit, 165 
Sprat, 22 

Stage, the English and 
French, 22 

St. Clair, General, 27 
“ St. David’s Street,” 39 
Stone, Archbishop, 34 
Stoutness, Hume’s, 7 ; hu- 
morous description of, 28, 
36 37 

Substance, 166, 167 
Superstition, 58, 59 
Swift (Dean), Hume’s high es- 
timate of, 22 


T 

Temple, 22 

Theism, 140 seq. Hume’s, 
shadowy and inconsistent, 
146, 157 

Theology, popular, 142 
Thought, 62, 166 


Three Dialogues (Berkeley’s), 9 

Treatise on Hictnan Mature, 8 ; 
its key note, 9 ; when 
planned and composed, 9 ; 
contemporary criticism of, 
10 ,* Book I. Of the Under - 
stancling, 9 ; Book IL Of the 
Passions, 9 ; Book III. On 
Moi^als, 11 

Treatise concerning the Princi- 
ples of Human Knoiuledge 
(Berkeley’s), 9 

Turks and Greeks compared, 
23 

U 

Universal suffrage, evils of, 13 

Utility, 203, 204 


V 

Virtue and Vice, 155 
Virtue, the utility of, 199— 
^201 

Vision, Essay toiaards a new 
Theory of (Berkeley’s), 9 
Volition, 183 seq- 


W 

Wealth of Pfations (Adam 
Smith’s), 30 

Whateley, Archbishop, 173 
Will, the, 183 seq. ; freedom of, 
186—189 

Z 

Zaleucus, 163 


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